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Dissecting Carotenoid from Structural Components of Carotenoid-Based Coloration: A Field Experiment with Great Tits (Parus major)


Jacot, Alain; Romero-Diaz, Cristina; Tschirren, Barbara; Richner, Heinz; Fitze, Patrick (2010). Dissecting Carotenoid from Structural Components of Carotenoid-Based Coloration: A Field Experiment with Great Tits (Parus major). The American Naturalist, 176(1):55-62.

Abstract

Carotenoid-based yellowish to red plumage colors are
widespread visual signals used in sexual and social communication. To understand their ultimate signaling functions, it is important to identify the proximate mechanism promoting variation in coloration. Carotenoid-based colors combine structural and pigmentary components, but the importance of the contribution of structural components to variation in pigment-based colors (i.e., carotenoid-based colors) has been undervalued. In a field experiment with great tits (Parus major), we combined a brood size manipulation with a simultaneous carotenoid supplementation in order to disentangle the effects of carotenoid availability and early growth condition on different components of the yellow breast feathers. By defining independent measures of feather carotenoid content (absolute carotenoid chroma) and background structure (background reflectance), we demonstrate that environmental factors experienced during the nestling period, namely, early growth conditions and carotenoid availability, contribute independently to variation in yellow plumage coloration. While early growth conditions affected the background reflectance of the plumage, the availability of carotenoids affected the absolute carotenoid chroma, the peak of maximum ultraviolet reflectance, and the overall shape, that is, chromatic information of the reflectance curves. These findings demonstrate that environmentinduced
variation in background structure contributes significantly
to intraspecific variation in yellow carotenoid-based plumage coloration.

Abstract

Carotenoid-based yellowish to red plumage colors are
widespread visual signals used in sexual and social communication. To understand their ultimate signaling functions, it is important to identify the proximate mechanism promoting variation in coloration. Carotenoid-based colors combine structural and pigmentary components, but the importance of the contribution of structural components to variation in pigment-based colors (i.e., carotenoid-based colors) has been undervalued. In a field experiment with great tits (Parus major), we combined a brood size manipulation with a simultaneous carotenoid supplementation in order to disentangle the effects of carotenoid availability and early growth condition on different components of the yellow breast feathers. By defining independent measures of feather carotenoid content (absolute carotenoid chroma) and background structure (background reflectance), we demonstrate that environmental factors experienced during the nestling period, namely, early growth conditions and carotenoid availability, contribute independently to variation in yellow plumage coloration. While early growth conditions affected the background reflectance of the plumage, the availability of carotenoids affected the absolute carotenoid chroma, the peak of maximum ultraviolet reflectance, and the overall shape, that is, chromatic information of the reflectance curves. These findings demonstrate that environmentinduced
variation in background structure contributes significantly
to intraspecific variation in yellow carotenoid-based plumage coloration.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:July 2010
Deposited On:18 Apr 2013 15:49
Last Modified:18 Apr 2018 11:43
Publisher:University of Chicago Press
ISSN:0003-0147
Funders:Swiss National Science Foundation, Spanish Ministry of Education and Science, Australian Research Council
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1086/653000
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleSwiss National Science Foundation
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleSpanish Ministry of Education and Science
  • : Funder
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleAustralian Research Council

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