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Title

Low-quality birds do not display high-quality signals: the cysteine-pheomelanin mechanism of honesty

AuthorsGalván, Ismael ; Wakamatsu, Kazumasa; Camarero, Pablo R. ; Mateo, Rafael ; Alonso-Álvarez, Carlos
Issue Date2015
PublisherSociety for the Study of Evolution
John Wiley & Sons
CitationEvolution 69(1): 26-38 (2015)
AbstractThe mechanisms that make that the costs of producing high-quality signals are unaffordable to low-quality signalers are a current issue in animal communication. The size of the melanin-based bib of male house sparrows Passer domesticus honestly signals quality. We induced the development of new bibs while treating males with buthionine-sulfoximine (BSO), a substance that depletes the levels of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) and the amino acid cysteine, two elements that switch melanogenesis from eumelanin to pheomelanin. Final bib size is negatively related to pheomelanin levels in the bib feathers. BSO reduced cysteine and GSH levels in all birds, but improved phenotypes (bibs larger than controls) were only expressed by high-quality birds (BSO birds with largest bibs initially). Negative associations between final bib size and cysteine levels in erythrocytes, and between pheomelanin and cysteine levels, were observed in high-quality birds only. These findings suggest that a mechanism uncoupling pheomelanin and cysteine levels may have evolved in low-quality birds to avoid producing bibs of size not corresponding to their quality and greater relative costs. Indeed, greater oxidative stress in cells was not observed in low-quality birds. This may represent the first mechanism maintaining signal honesty without producing greater relative costs on low-quality signalers.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12549
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/123266
DOI10.1111/evo.12549
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/evo.12549
issn: 0014-3820
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