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Association between melanism, physiology and behaviour: a role for the melanocortin system.
European Journal of Pharmacology
The melanocortin system is implicated in the expression of many phenotypic traits. Activation of the melanocortin MC(1) receptor by melanocortin hormones induces the production of brown/black eumelanic pigments, while activation of the four other melanocortin receptors affects other physiological and behavioural functions including stress response, energy homeostasis, anti-inflammatory and sexual activity, aggressiveness and resistance to oxidative stress. We recently proposed the hypothesis that some melanocortin-physiological and -behavioural traits are correlated within individuals. This hypothesis predicts that the degree of eumelanin production may, in some cases, be associated with the regulation of glucocorticoids, immunity, resistance to oxidative stress, energy homeostasis, sexual activity, and aggressiveness. A review of the zoological literature and detailed experimental studies in a free-living population of barn owls (Tyto alba) showed that indeed melanic coloration is often correlated with the predicted physiological and behavioural traits. Support for predictions of the hypothesis that covariations between coloration and other phenotypic traits stem from pleiotropic effects of the melanocortin system raises a number of theoretical and empirical issues from evolutionary and pharmacological point of views.
Animals, Behavior/drug effects, Humans, Melanocortins/genetics, Melanocortins/metabolism, Melanosis/genetics, Melanosis/metabolism, Phenotype, Physiological Processes/drug effects, Strigiformes/genetics, Strigiformes/metabolism
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