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Eggshell pigmentation in the blue tit: Male quality matters

Badas, E. P., Martinez, J., Rivero-de Aguilar, J., Stevens, M., van der Velde, M., Komdeur, J. & Merino, S., Mar-2017, In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 71, 3, 12 p., 57.

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  • Eggshell pigmentation in the blue tit: male quality matters

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DOI

Many passerines lay protoporphyrin-pigmented eggs, and the degree of spotting seems to be related to female condition and environmental characteristics. However, most studies have ignored the relationship between the male's quality and eggshell pigmentation. Because ornaments can act as honest indicators of individual quality, spottiness could be related to the parents' feather colouration. Using models of bird vision, we investigated whether male and female ornamentation explained variation in spotting coverage in a free-living population of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus). We also explored the associations between other important individual characteristics (i.e. the pair's infection status) and spotting coverage. Females that laid more pigmented eggs suffered from higher parasitaemia by the blood parasite Leucocytozoon and had smaller clutches, more saturated yellow breast feathers and reduced body mass. Male plumage colour and infection status explained a higher percentage of the variation in eggshell pigmentation than female characteristics. Males that had more saturated white cheeks and less saturated yellow breasts and were more intensely infected by the parasite Haemoproteus and less by Plasmodium attended nests with more spotted eggs. Additionally, these males were younger and more likely to father extra-pair offspring. These results, although observational, suggest that male attractiveness, male age, extra-pair paternity and parasitic infections could be important determinants of eggshell pigmentation. Males in poorer condition might have provided less food to laying females, which in turn laid more pigmented eggs and were also in poor condition. Alternatively, increased eggshell pigmentation could result from female differential allocation or breeding in low-quality territories.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume71
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2017

    Keywords

  • Age, Avian malaria, Feather colouration, Paternity, Protoporphyrin, CYANISTES-CAERULEUS, SEXUAL SELECTION, PARUS-CAERULEUS, PASSERINE BIRD, PLUMAGE COLOR, EGG COLOR, MEDICATION EXPERIMENT, REPRODUCTIVE SUCCESS, OXIDATIVE STRESS, FEMALE CONDITION

ID: 41440524