Lauren Pereira November 13, 2019 Animal
Many animals, including mammals, birds, and amphibians, are unable to synthesize most of the pigments that color their fur or feathers, other than the brown or black melanins that give many mammals their earth tones.For example, the bright yellow of an American goldfinch, the startling orange of a juvenile red-spotted newt, the deep red of a cardinal and the pink of a flamingo are all produced by carotenoid pigments synthesized by plants. In the case of the flamingo, the bird eats pink shrimps, which are themselves unable to synthesize carotenoids. The shrimps derive their body color from microscopic red algae, which like most plants are able to create their own pigments, including both carotenoids and (green) chlorophyll. Animals that eat green plants do not become green, however, as chlorophyll does not survive digestion.
For example, the Arctic fox has a white coat in winter (containing little pigment), and a brown coat in summer (containing more pigment), an example of seasonal camouflage.
Some animals are colored purely incidentally because their blood contains pigments. For example, amphibians like the olm that live in caves may be largely colorless as color has no function in that environment, but they show some red because of the haem pigment in their red blood cells, needed to carry oxygen. They also have a little orange colored riboflavin in their skin. Human albinos and people with fair skin have a similar color for the same reason.
Warning coloration can succeed either through inborn behaviour (instinct) on the part of potential predators, or through a learned avoidance. Either can lead to various forms of mimicry. Experiments show that avoidance is learned in birds, mammals, lizards, and amphibians, but that some birds such as great tits have inborn avoidance of certain colors and patterns such as black and yellow stripes.
Much to our disbelief, a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association 22(2) pp. 81-85 provides support that coloring mandalas or geometric patterns actually does help lower stress and anxiety levels. Nancy A. Curry, BA, completed this project while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Knox College with then associate professor, Tim Kasser, Ph.D., who is now the Professor and Chair of Psychology at Knox College.
The sweet flesh of many fruits is ”deliberately” appealing to animals, so that the seeds held within are eaten and ”unwittingly” carried away and deposited (i.e., defecated) at a distance from the parent. Likewise, the nutritious, oily kernels of nuts are appealing to rodents (such as squirrels), which hoard them in the soil to avoid starving during the winter, thus giving those seeds that remain uneaten the chance to germinate and grow into a new plant away from their parent.
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