There's a reason all the pigments in the food flamingos eat don't end up in feather-colored flamingos. Even if flamingos are fed blue or green food, they cannot theoretically switch to those colors. Flamingos cannot extract known blue or green pigments from their food and turn them into blue or green feathers. Because flamingos turn pink because of carotenoids, they also turn blue when they eat blue or green foods.
Flamingos have the ability to take carotenoids and turn these food pigments into flamingo pink. The bright pink feathers, beak and legs of a flamingo are the result of a pigmented carotenoid. The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from the carotenoids in the flamingo's diet of animal and plant plankton. The pink color comes from the beta-carotene of the crustaceans and plankton that flamingos feed on.
American flamingos are brighter in color due to the beta-carotene in their diet, while smaller flamingos are pale pink because they consume less of this pigment. Their bright appearance is due to beta-carotene, a reddish-orange pigment that is found in high levels in algae, larvae and brine shrimp that flamingos eat in wetland environments. For the most part, pigments called carotenoids are found in the blue-green algae that brine shrimp and birds depend on.
Flamingos tend to discriminate between the carotenoid pigments of blue-green algae, maintaining the flamingo's pink hue. Some reason why flamingos' metabolism only picks up carotenoid pigments from these algae and that's what makes flamingos pink. The bright color of flamingo feathers is due to the presence of carotenoid pigments found in the algae and crustaceans that make up the flamingo's diet.
The flamingo recycles carotenoids from the food it eats and reuses these chemicals in pigments for its appearance. Enzymes in the liver break down pigments called carotenoids into pink and orange pigment molecules, which are absorbed by fats deposited in the flamingo's feathers, beak, and legs. Thanks to the special metabolism of flamingos, birds are able to process toxic chemicals called carotenoids in the liver, breaking them down into functional components and pigments. While prey feed on algae, flamingos accumulate organic molecules of vegetation, especially carotenoids, in their body.
Because the flamingo's body is designed to metabolize pink and red pigments, the flamingo's feathers also begin to change color. Flamingos' bodies are often designed to collect and metabolize red and green pigments, causing them to change color.
These green and blue theories are tempting because flamingos consume a lot of cyanobacteria, which one would think could theoretically make them green. Since we are taught that flamingos get their color from food, we can change their color if we change their food. If flamingos change their diets or start eating foods that don't contain carotenoids, their color may return to their original light gray or white. This means that if American flamingos change their diet or their food is no longer rich in carotenoids, they could disappear, turning their distinctive pink color to their original gray color.
Even while in captivity, keepers make sure that the American flamingo has a special diet that will help keep pink flamingo feathers at all times, because some changes can cause their feathers to turn white. Like these American flamingos, captive flamingos are fed a special diet to keep them beautiful and colorful.
The feathers of flamingo chickens change color as soon as they start growing and follow the same diet as other flamingos. Interestingly, while flamingos are pink primarily as a by-product of the flamingo's food, their color takes on a special meaning during mating season. Flamingo prey is rich in beta-carotenoids, which determine the color of the plumage.
In zoos, flamingos require a diet rich in carotenoids to maintain their characteristic plumage. Zoo flamingos will turn white unless their diet is supplemented with live shrimp or flamingo food containing carotenoid pigments. The carotenoids themselves can turn white in the sun, which the flamingo species Phoenicopterus roseus combats by directly smoothing themselves with pigments secreted by their glands, giving their feathers a brilliant pink sheen.
As shown on the BBC's Life in Color, young flamingos wear grey-white feathers and develop them only after deepening their diet of salt brine shrimp and blue-green algae, a food that is likely to kill other animals.
The milk is also rich in carotenoids, which flamingo parents can pass on to their young, gradually turning the bird's feathers pink. The real reason milk is pink is mainly because of the bird's diet. Not to be confused with mammalian milk, flamingo milk is a highly nutritious bright pink secretion produced in the throat of an adult human and is so densely packed with carotenoids that both male parents often appear at the end of the breeding season. than white females, having lost the pink color of the feathers. The flamingo's metabolism then creates canthaxanthin from the dietary astaxanthin, and this is the pigment compound that we see pink in flamingo feathers and paws.
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