Oecologia

, Volume 164, Issue 1, pp 65–71

Darker eumelanic barn owls better withstand food depletion through resistance to food deprivation and lower appetite

  • Amélie Dreiss
  • Isabelle Henry
  • Charlène Ruppli
  • Bettina Almasi
  • Alexandre Roulin
Behavioral ecology - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-010-1680-7

Cite this article as:
Dreiss, A., Henry, I., Ruppli, C. et al. Oecologia (2010) 164: 65. doi:10.1007/s00442-010-1680-7

Abstract

The intensity of selection exerted on ornaments typically varies between environments. Reaction norms may help to identify the conditions under which ornamented individuals have a selective advantage over drab conspecifics. It has been recently hypothesized that in vertebrates eumelanin-based coloration reflects the ability to regulate the balance between energy intake and expenditure. We tested two predictions of this hypothesis in barn owl nestlings, namely that darker eumelanic individuals have a lower appetite and lose less weight when food-deprived. We found that individuals fed ad libitum during 24 h consumed less food when their plumage was marked with larger black spots. When food-deprived for 24 h nestlings displaying larger black spots lost less weight. Thus, in the barn owl the degree of eumelanin-based coloration reflects the ability to withstand periods of food depletion through lower appetite and resistance to food restriction. Eumelanic coloration may therefore be associated with adaptations to environments where the risk of food depletion is high.

Keywords

Appetite Food depletion Energy homeostasis Melanin Melanocortin 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amélie Dreiss
    • 1
  • Isabelle Henry
    • 1
  • Charlène Ruppli
    • 1
  • Bettina Almasi
    • 2
  • Alexandre Roulin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swiss Ornithological InstituteSempachSwitzerland

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