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Accumulation of dietary carotenoids, retinoids and tocopherol in the internal tissues of a bird: a hypothesis for the cost of producing colored ornaments

AuthorsGarcía-de Blas, Esther ; Mateo, Rafael ; Alonso-Álvarez, Carlos
KeywordsCarotenoid metabolism
Pro-oxidative cost
Sexual signaling
Vitamin A
Issue Date2015
CitationOecologia 177(1): 259–271 (2015)
AbstractCarotenoid-based ornaments may have evolved as a consequence of their costs of production, which would assure the reliability of the traits as signals of individual quality. Different costs due to carotenoid allocation to the signal have been proposed, considering the scarcity of these pigments at the environment (ecological cost) and their physiological properties that would trade against the maintenance of the organism. Carotenoids of many red ornaments (ketocarotenoids) are often the result of biotransformation of those pigments abundant in the diet (usually lutein and zeaxanthin). Some authors have suggested that such a conversion implies a cost relevant for signaling because it requires high levels of antioxidant vitamins in the tissues where biotransformation takes place. We explore this hypothesis in red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) by analyzing ketocarotenoids in the ornaments (bare parts) and carotenoids, vitamin A in different forms (free and esterified) and vitamin E in blood, liver and fat. Ketocarotenoids in ornaments (astaxanthin and papilioerythrinone) were not found in internal tissues, suggesting that they were directly transformed in the bare parts. However, ketocarotenoid levels where positively correlated with the levels of their precursors (zeaxanthin and lutein, respectively) in internal tissues. Interestingly, ketocarotenoid levels in bare parts negatively and positively correlated with vitamin A and E in the liver, respectively, the same links only being positive in blood. Moreover, retinyl and zeaxanthin levels in liver were negatively related. We hypothesize that storing substrate carotenoids in the main storage site (the liver) implies a cost in terms of regulating the level of vitamin A.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-014-3163-8
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