Non-destructive descriptions of carotenoids in feathers using Raman spectroscopy

Daniel B. Thomas, Kevin J. McGraw, Helen F. James, Odile Madden
  • Analytical Methods, January 2014, Royal Society of Chemistry
  • DOI: 10.1039/c3ay41870g

Analysing pigments in feathers

What is it about?

Birds extract carotenoid pigments from food and deposit them directly into their feathers, or alter the structure and colour of the extracted pigments through biochemical pathways. Any one feather can contain a mixture of dietary and altered carotenoids and is thus a valuable source of habitat, physiology and evolutionary information. Using Raman spectroscopy and multivariate statistics, we can now access this information without sample destruction.

Why is it important?

The traditional method for extracting information about plumage carotenoids involved draining the colour out of a feather. Our new, non-destructive method means that we can study precious bird specimens that have never before had their feather pigments analysed. For example, the Petroica robins from Australian and New Zealand.

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The following have contributed to this page: Daniel Thomas