Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 66, Issue 5, pp 731–742 | Cite as

Adjustment of female reproductive investment according to male carotenoid-based ornamentation in a gallinaceous bird

  • Carlos Alonso-AlvarezEmail author
  • Lorenzo Pérez-Rodríguez
  • María Ester Ferrero
  • Esther García de-Blas
  • Fabián Casas
  • Francois Mougeot
Original Paper


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.


Androgens Mate choice Maternal effects Maternal hormones Reproductive compensation Sexual selection 



We would like to thank Diego Gil and Judith Morales for their kind review of the first version of the manuscript and also Alba Estrada, Alberto Velando, Gabriele Sorci, Deseada and Parejo Jesús Aviles for their discussion on statistics. We also thank the associated editor, Prof. Jefferson Graves and Wolfgang Forstmeier and another anonymous referee for their constructive review, particularly on the statistical procedures. We are grateful to Carlos Cano and Francisco Pérez (Consejería de Medio Ambiente, JCCM, Spain) for the kind provision of partridges for this study and to Emiliano Sobrino, Fernando Dueñas and Luis Montó for maintenance of the partridges. Lorenzo Pérez-Rodríguez was supported by a Juan de la Cierva contract (JCI-2008-2059, Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación-Fondo Social Europeo, Spain). Francois Mougeot was supported by an intramural research project (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Spain). Financial support was obtained from the projects PII1I09-0271-5037 and PII1C09-0128-4724 from the JCCM and CGL2009-10883-C02-02 from Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain).

Supplementary material

265_2012_1321_MOESM1_ESM.doc (170 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 170 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Alonso-Alvarez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lorenzo Pérez-Rodríguez
    • 2
  • María Ester Ferrero
    • 1
  • Esther García de-Blas
    • 1
  • Fabián Casas
    • 1
  • Francois Mougeot
    • 3
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC; CSIC, UCLM, JCCM)Ciudad RealSpain
  2. 2.Department of Evolutionary EcologyMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN, CSIC)MadridSpain
  3. 3.Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas (EEZA, CSIC)AlmeríaSpain

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