Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Red hair is a sign of oxidative stress in wild boars, but gray is a-ok

A coat of a certain color could be costly for wild boars, according to research published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

The research, led by Ismael Galván of Spain's Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, found that boars with more reddish hair tend to have higher levels of oxidative stress—damage that occurs as toxins from cell respiration build up. The reason for this, the researchers suggest, is that the process of producing reddish pigment eats up a valuable antioxidant that would otherwise be fighting the free radicals that lead to oxidative stress.

Most of the pigment in animal skin and hair is produced by chemicals called melanins. There are two kinds of melanins: eumelanin, which produces dark colors, and pheomelanin, which produces reddish or chestnut colors. The two melanins are produced via similar chemical pathways, with an exception. The production of pheomelanin consumes a chemical called glutathione (also known as GSH), which is a powerful intracellular antioxidant.

To see if this consumption of GSH has physiological consequences, Galván and his team studied a population of wild boars in Doñana National Park in southwestern Spain. The researchers quantified the amount of reddish fur each boar had, and tested levels of GSH and oxidative stress in the muscles of each animal.

They found that the boars with the highest levels of pheomelanin in their hair tended to have lower levels of GSH in their muscles, and had the highest levels of oxidative stress. "This suggests that certain colorations may have important consequences for wild boars," Galván said. "Pheomelanin responsible for chestnut colorations may make animals more susceptible to oxidative damage."

The results corroborate findings in other studies on birds and other animals suggesting the production of pheomelanin imposes physiological constraints. In humans, red hair and high pheomelanin in skin has been linked to higher rates of cancer. These findings raise a question: Why did pheomelanin evolve in the first place?

Galván suggests one possible answer. While consuming GSH, pheomelanin production also consumes a chemical called cysteine, which is part of GSH and can be toxic in excess. "Pheomelanin may have evolved because cysteine, which is toxic at very high levels, is removed from cells during pheomelanin production," Galván said.

Surprising Results for Grays

While the findings for red hair echoed results of other studies, there were some surprising results for gray hair in wild boars. Studies in humans have suggested that graying hair—the absence of melanin—may happen as a result of oxidative stress. "As with human hair, wild boars show hair graying all across their body fur," Galván said. "But we found that boars showing hair graying were actually those in prime condition and with the lowest levels of oxidative damage. Far from being a sign of age-related decline, hair graying seems to indicate good condition in wild boars."

Research into the consequences of different levels of melanin is only just beginning, Galván says, and he hopes this research will spur continued study.

"Given that all higher vertebrates, including humans, share the same types of melanins in skin, hair, and plumage, these results increase our scant current knowledge on the physiological consequences of pigmentation," he said.

Ismael Galván, Carlos Alonso-Alvarez, and Juan J. Negro, "Relationships between Hair Melanization, Glutathione Levels, and Senescence in Wild Boars." Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85:4 (July/August 2012).

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

primarily publishes original research papers in animal physiology and biochemistry with a specific emphasis on studies that address the ecological and/or evolutionary aspects of physiological and biochemical mechanisms. Studies at all levels of biological organization from the molecular to the whole organism are welcome, and work that integrates levels of organization to address important questions in behavioral, ecological, evolutionary or comparative physiology is particularly encouraged.

Kevin Stacey | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>