Article: article from journal or magazin.
Immune and stress responses covary with melanin-based coloration in the barn swallow
Eumelanin and pheomelanin are the main endogenous pigments in animals and melanin-based coloration has multiple functions. Melanization is associated with major life-history traits, including immune and stress response, possibly because of pleiotropic effects of genes that control melanogenesis. The net effects on pheo- versus eumelanization and other life-history traits may depend on the antagonistic effects of the genes that trigger the biosynthesis of either melanin form. Covariation between melanin-based pigmentation and fitness traits enforced by pleiotropic genes has major evolutionary implications particularly for socio-sexual communication. However, evidence from non-model organisms in the wild is limited to very few species. Here, we tested the hypothesis that melanin-based coloration of barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) throat and belly feathers covaries with acquired immunity and activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, as gauged by corticosterone plasma levels. Individuals of both sexes with darker brownish belly feathers had weaker humoral immune response, while darker males had higher circulating corticosterone levels only when parental workload was experimentally reduced. Because color of belly feathers depends on both eu- and pheomelanin, and its darkness decreases with an increase in the concentration of eu- relative to pheomelanin, these results are consistent with our expectation that relatively more eu- than pheomelanized individuals have better immune response and smaller activation of the HPA-axis. Covariation of immune and stress response arose for belly but not throat feather color, suggesting that any function of color as a signal of individual quality or of alternative life-history strategies depends on plumage region.
Corticosterone, Color, Hirundo rustica, Immunity, Melanin, Sex
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