Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Could You Turn Into A Slice Of Pizza?

July 20, 2015

Your parents warned you that if you ate too many pizza slices, you’d turn into one. Turns out, if you ate enough and you were anything like a flamingo, you could have come pretty close. You might have noticed that flamingos can be the iconic pink, orange, or even white. They begin their lives with grey plumage—the color distinction later in life depends on their diet. Flamingos eat algae and crustaceans that contain pigments called carotenoids, mostly brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Enzymes in the liver break down the carotenoids into pink and orange pigment molecules that end up getting deposited in the feathers, bill, and legs of the birds. Captive flamingos tend to be a more vibrant pink since they’re fed more pigmented crustaceans like prawns. We eat foods with carotenoids, like carrots or even watermelon; we just don’t eat enough to affect our skin color.

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