Female blue tits with brighter yellow chests transfer more carotenoids to their eggs after an immune challenge.

Abstract:

:Female ornaments are present in many species, and it is more and more accepted that sexual or social selection may lead to their evolution. By contrast, the information conveyed by female ornaments is less well understood. Here, we investigated the links between female ornaments and maternal effects. In birds, an important maternal effect is the transmission of resources, such as carotenoids, into egg yolk. Carotenoids are pigments with antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties that are crucial for females and developing offspring. In blue tits, we evaluated whether ultraviolet (UV)/blue and yellow feather colouration signals a female's capacity to allocate carotenoids to egg yolk. Because mounting an immune response is costly and trade-offs are more detectable under harsh conditions, we challenged the immune system of females before laying and examined the carotenoid level of their eggs afterward. A positive association between feather carotenoid chroma and egg carotenoid level would be expected if yellow colouration signals basal immunity. Alternatively, if female colouration more generally reflects maternal capacity to invest in reproduction under challenging conditions, then other components of colouration (i.e. yellow brightness and UV/blue colouration) could be linked to maternal capacity to invest in eggs. No association between egg carotenoid levels and UV/blue crown colouration or female yellow chest chroma was found; the latter result suggests that yellow colouration does not signal immune capacity at laying in this species. By contrast, we found that, among females that mounted a detectable response to the vaccine, those with brighter yellow chests transmitted more carotenoids into their eggs. This result suggests yellow brightness signals maternal capacity to invest in reproduction under challenging conditions, and that male blue tits may benefit directly from choosing brighter yellow females.

journal_name

Oecologia

journal_title

Oecologia

authors

Midamegbe A,Grégoire A,Staszewski V,Perret P,Lambrechts MM,Boulinier T,Doutrelant C

doi

10.1007/s00442-013-2617-8

subject

Has Abstract

pub_date

2013-10-01 00:00:00

pages

387-97

issue

2

eissn

0029-8549

issn

1432-1939

journal_volume

173

pub_type

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