Could chemical pollution select for darker plumages in cities?
Ecotoxicological and evolutionary consequences
of metal exposure in the feral pigeon.

Dr Marion Chatelain

(formerly Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris, France, currently Wild Urban Evolution & Ecology Lab, CeNT University of Warsaw)

Date: Wednesday, 08.02.2017, 13:00, Cent Lecture Theatre 0142 (note the new location!!! How to get there: After entering CeNT, you will find  the lecture theatre 0142 ~15 meters to the right)

Trace metals are mainly emitted by human activities. As a consequence, their environmental concentrations are much higher in cities than in rural areas. On one hand, I investigated the ecotoxicological effects of a chronic exposure to lead and/or zinc, two of the most abundant metals in urban areas, in feral pigeons (Columba livia). I will present the results of experimental studies testing the effects of both metals on immunity, body mass maintenance and several parameters of reproduction. On the other hand, I tested whether trace metal exposure could select for pigeons exhibiting a darker plumage. Because sensitivity to trace metals differs between individuals, metal exposure may exert new selective pressures on urban populations. These selective pressures should favour the most tolerant individuals to high pollution levels or, alternatively, the ones who might have the highest capacities to detoxify themselves from pollutants. I will explain how melanin synthesis, responsible for the dark pigmentation of pigeons, may help metal detoxification and, as a consequence, may modulate the effects of trace metal exposure on physiology, health or life-history traits of birds. Finally, I will present new and original avenues to better understand plumage colouration polymorphism in response to chemical pollutant exposure.