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Sex and age differences in reflectance and biochemistry of carotenoid-based colour variation in the great tit Parus major

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift
Författare Caroline Isaksson
Jonas Örnborg
Maria Prager
Staffan Andersson
Publicerad i Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volym 95
Nummer/häfte 4
Sidor 758-765
ISSN 0024-4066
Publiceringsår 2008
Publicerad vid Zoologiska institutionen
Sidor 758-765
Språk en
Länkar dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2008...
Ämnesord carotenoids, lutein, sexual and age-dimorphism, spectral reflectance, zeaxanthin
Ämneskategorier Biologiska vetenskaper, Etologi och beteendeekologi

Sammanfattning

The plumage coloration in great tits (Parus major) is the subject of much behavioural and ecophysiological research, yet there is a lack of analyses of the natural colour variation and its mechanisms. We used reflectance spectrometry and high-performance liquid chromatography to explore individual, sexual and age-related variation in carotenoid coloration and pigmentation, paramount to the often presumed, but rarely substantiated, costs and 'honesty' of carotenoid displays. In adults, we found that sex was the strongest predictor of 'brightness' (higher in males) and of 'hue' (longer wavelength in females). There was no sex difference in 'carotenoid chroma' or carotenoid content of feathers which also was unrelated to adult age (1 or 2+ years) and condition. Similar patterns were revealed for nestlings. Regarding the biochemical 'signal content', 'carotenoid chroma', but not 'hue', was significantly related to the carotenoid content (lutein and zeaxanthin) of feathers. These results refute the previously assumed exaggeration of carotenoid pigmentation in male great tits, and question the condition-dependence of carotenoid coloration in this species. However, the sexual dimorphism in total reflectance or 'brightness', most likely due to melanins rather than carotenoids, may have implications for signalling or other adaptive explanations that need to be explored.

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