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Red hair is a sign of oxidative stress in wild boars, but gray is a-ok
Date:7/19/2012

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 Galvn of Spain's Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, found that boars with more reddish hair tend to have higher levels of oxidative stressdamage 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, Galvn and his team studied a population of wild boars in Doana 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," Galvn 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
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Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
401-284-3878
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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