Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Coprophagy

An unusual source of essential carotenoids

A yellow-faced vulture includes ungulate faeces in its diet for cosmetic purposes.

Abstract

The rare Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) stands out among the Old World vultures (Family Accipitridae) because of its brightly ornamented head1, which is coloured yellow by carotenoid pigments, and its practice of feeding on faeces. Here we show that Egyptian vultures obtain these pigments from the excrement of ungulates. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that faeces can be used as a source of carotenoids by a vertebrate.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1
Figure 2: Plasma lutein concentrations in Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus).

References

  1. Mundy, P., Butchart, D., Ledger, J. & Piper, S. The Vultures of Africa (Academic, London, 1992).

  2. Hurd, P. L., Weatherhead, P. J. & McRae, S. B. Behav. Ecol. 2, 69–76 (1991).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Hutchings, M. R., Gordon, I. J., Kyriazakis, I. & Jackson, F. Anim. Behav. 62, 955–964 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Brush, A. H. FASEB J. 4, 2969–2977 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Britton, G. FASEB J. 9, 1551–1558 (1995).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Mínguez-Mosquera, M. I. & Hornero-Méndez, D. J. Agric. Food Chem. 41, 1616–1620 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Vogel, A. I. Elementary Practical Organic Chemistry (Logmans, Green & Co., London, 1957).

  8. Negro, J. J., Tella, J. L., Blanco, G., Forero, M. G. & Garrido-Fernández, J. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 73, 97–101 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hill, G. E. Nature 350, 337–339 (1991).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Rohwer, S. A. Evolution 29, 593–610 (1975).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Zahavi, A. & Zahavi, A. The Handicap Principle (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1997).

  12. Tella, J. L. et al. Physiol. Zool. 71, 708–711 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Díaz-Delgado, R. & Pons, X. Forest Ecol. Manag. 147, 67–74 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. J. Negro.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Negro, J., Grande, J., Tella, J. et al. An unusual source of essential carotenoids. Nature 416, 807–808 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/416807a

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/416807a

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing