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An unusual source of essential carotenoids

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


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.

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

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Correspondence to J. J. Negro.

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Negro, J., Grande, J., Tella, J. et al. An unusual source of essential carotenoids. Nature 416, 807–808 (2002).

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