Adjustment of female reproductive investment according to male carotenoid-based ornamentation in a gallinaceous bird
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- Alonso-Alvarez, C., Pérez-Rodríguez, L., Ferrero, M.E. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2012) 66: 731. doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1321-8
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Carotenoid-based ornaments (many yellow–orange–red colourations) may signal the genetic or parental quality of the bearer. Thus, their expression could influence the amount of resources/energy that the mate will invest in the production of offspring, thereby optimising its reproductive fitness. The differential allocation hypothesis (DAH) predicts that females mated with more attractive males should lay more and better eggs. This has been explored only in few bird species with carotenoid-based traits. We tested this hypothesis in the red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa), a gallinacean with very variable laying capacity. Both sexes display carotenoid-based ornamentation that gradually fades throughout the laying period. Here, the redness of beak and eye rings of captive males was intensified after mating by means of paint. The proportion of females that laid eggs did not differ between treatments. Amongst laying females, those mated with colour-enhanced males (experimental females) tended to lay earlier and produced significantly more eggs than controls, but of similar quality (egg mass and composition). We additionally investigated whether male attractiveness influenced egg components depending on the clutch size and laying sequence. The testosterone level in eggs from experimental females was positively related to the laying order, whereas control eggs did not show any trend. Our results provided mixed support for the DAH, but nevertheless revealed that female red-legged partridges may adjust their breeding investment according to male carotenoid-based ornamentation.