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Effects of experimental brood size manipulation and gender on carotenoid levels of Eurasian kestrels Falco tinnunculus

AuthorsLaaksonen, T.; Negro, Juan J. ; Lyytinen, S.; Valkama, Jari; Ots, I.; Korpimäki, E.
Issue Date2008
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 3 (2008)
AbstractBackground: Animals use carotenoid-pigments for coloration, as antioxidants and as enhancers of the immune system. Carotenoid dependent colours can thus signal individual quality and carotenoids have also been suggested to mediate life-history trade-offs. Methodology: To examine trade offs in carotenoid allocation between parents and the young, or between skin coloration and plasma of the parents at different levels of brood demand, we manipulated brood sizes of Eurasian kestrels (Falcotinnunculus). Principal Findings: Brood size manipulation had no overall effect on plasma carotenoid levels or skin hue of parents, but female parents had twice the plasma carotenoid levels of males. Males work physically harder than females and they might thus also use more carotenoids against oxidative stress than females. Alternatively females could be gaining back the carotenoid stores they depleted during egg laying by eating primarily carotenoid-rich food items during the early nestling stage. Fledgling in enlarged broods had higher plasma carotenoid concentrations than those in reduced broods. This difference was not explained by diet. In light of recent evidence from other species, we suggest it might instead be due to fledgings in enlarged broods having higher testosterone levels, which in turn increased plasma carotenoid levels. The partial cross-foster design of our experiment revealed evidence for origin effects (genetic or matemal) on carotenoid levels of fledglings, but no origin-environment interaction. Significance: These results from wild birds differ from studies in captivity, and thus offer new insights into carotenoid physiology in relation to division of parental care and demands of the brood. © 2008 Laaksonen et al.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002374
issn: 1932-6203
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