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Plumage coloration and nutritional condition in the great tit Parus major: the roles of carotenoids and melanins differ

Abstract

The size and coloration of some body characters seem to influence mate choice in many species. Most animal colours are either structural or based on melanin or carotenoid pigments. It has recently been suggested that carotenoid-based or structural coloration may be a condition-dependent trait, whereas melanin-based coloration is not; a difference that may be highly relevant when studying the evolution of multiple mating preferences. We tested this hypothesis in the great tit (Parus major). The size of the melanin breast band was not correlated to nutritional condition as estimated by the rate of tail growth (ptilochronology), controlling for locality, age, sex, year and season effects. However, the correlation was significant for the hue of yellow breast (carotenoid-based coloration), and the slopes of the regressions of the two pigments to growth bars differed significantly. These results suggest that the expression of the two traits may be regulated by different mechanisms.

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Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to Lluisa Arroyo, David Boné and Iker Ruiz for field assistance, and to Miguel Tejedo for laboratory facilities. This work was funded by Ministerio de Ciéncia y Tecnología (BOS 2000-0141).

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Correspondence to Juan Carlos Senar.

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Senar, J.C., Figuerola, J. & Domènech, J. Plumage coloration and nutritional condition in the great tit Parus major: the roles of carotenoids and melanins differ. Naturwissenschaften 90, 234–237 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-003-0414-7

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Keywords

  • Carotenoid
  • Plumage Coloration
  • Yellow Breast
  • Breast Stripe
  • Melanin Coloration