Article: article from journal or magazin.
Environmental stress affects the expression of a carotenoid-based sexual trait in male zebra finches.
Journal of Experimental Biology
Publication types: Journal Article
Abiotic factors including thermal stress are suggested to exert constrains on sexual ornaments through trade-offs between sexual displays and physiological functions related to self-maintenance. Given the health properties of carotenoid pigments, carotenoid-based ornaments offer a relevant context in which to investigate the effect of environmental stress, such as ambient temperature, on the production and maintenance of secondary sexual traits and, also, to explore the proximate mechanisms shaping their expression. In this study, we exposed male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to environmental stress by exposing them to two temperature regimes (6 and 26 degrees C) over a 4 week period. Simultaneously, half of the males in each temperature group were supplemented with carotenoids, whereas the other half were not. The expression of a carotenoid-based sexual trait (bill colour) and the amount of circulating carotenoids were assessed before and at the end of the experiment. Carotenoid-supplemented males developed a redder bill, but the effect of supplementation was reduced under cold exposure. However, we found evidence that birds facing a cold stress were carotenoid limited, since supplemented males developed redder bills than the non-supplemented ones. Interestingly, while cold-exposed and non-supplemented males developed duller bills, they circulated a higher amount of carotenoids at the end of the experiment compared to the pre-experimental values. Together, these results suggest that ambient temperature might contribute to the modulation of the expression of carotenoid-based ornaments. Our findings suggest that carotenoids are a limiting resource under cold exposure and that they might be prioritized for self-maintenance at the expense of the ornament. The physiological functions related to self-maintenance that might have benefited from carotenoid saving are discussed.
Animals, Beak, Body Weight, Carotenoids/metabolism, Cold Temperature, Feeding Behavior, Finches/physiology, Male, Pigmentation, Quantitative Trait, Heritable, Sex Characteristics
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