Coloration is one of the most conspicuous traits that varies among organisms. Carotenoid pigments are responsible for many of the red, orange, and yellow colors in the natural world and, at least for most animals, these molecules must be acquired from their environment. Identifying genes important for carotenoid transport, deposition, and processing has been difficult, in contrast to the well-characterized genes involved in the melanogenesis pathways. We review recent progress in the genetics of carotenoid processing, advances owing in part to the application of high-throughput sequencing data. We focus on examples from several classes of genes coding for scavenger receptors, β-carotene oxygenases, and ketolases. We also review comparative studies that have revealed several important findings in the evolution of these genes. Namely, that they are conserved across deep phylogenetic timescales, are associated with gene/genome duplications, and introgression has contributed to their movement between several taxa.
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