The chemical structure of the pigments in Ara macao plumage

Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 Aug;130(1):57-63. doi: 10.1016/s1096-4959(01)00402-x.


Parrots (Psittaciformes) harbor unusually bright, non-carotenoid, feather pigments. We successfully extracted and purified a sufficient quantity of pigment from the red plumage of the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) for a partial chemical analysis. The extracts were analyzed by HPLC coupled with UV-VIS and mass spectroscopy before and after total hydrogenation. We found at least four pigment components. We propose a linear polyenal structure comparable with the molecules tetradecahexenal, hexadecaheptenal, octadecaoctenal and eicosanonenal.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Feathers / chemistry*
  • Light
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Models, Chemical
  • Pigments, Biological / chemistry*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Psittaciformes
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Pigments, Biological