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Carotenoid-based plumage coloration is not affected by vitamin E supplementation in male greenfinches

  • Original Article
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Ecological Research

Abstract

Carotenoid-based colours have become an important model of honest signalling as carotenoids are suggested to play vital roles in several physiological functions including antioxidants and immunostimulators, while they are also required for sexual displays. However, it has been recently suggested that carotenoid-based signals may be used mainly as reflectors of the systems that prevent their oxidation (mainly the amount of other non-pigmented antioxidants) rather than the antioxidative properties of carotenoids themselves. We tested this hypothesis by examining the effect of simultaneous supplementation of carotenoids and an uncoloured antioxidant—vitamin E—on the coloration of growing tail feathers in captive male greenfinches (Carduelis chloris chloris L.). While carotenoid supplementation enhanced the coloration of the feathers, manipulation of dietary vitamin E had no effect. Thus, our results do not support the idea that carotenoids are mainly used as indicators of the abundance of other antioxidants.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Sõrve Bird Observatory for providing facilities and Mati Martinson for the help in bird trapping. Stefaan Van Dyck (Kemin Agrifoods Europe) kindly donated OroGlo carotenoid supplement. Indrek Ots helped the authors with the experiment and analyses; Elise Sonn and Heleri Tamm aided in bird maintenance. Kevin McGraw and an anonymous reviewer provided thorough and constructive criticism on, and Triinu Mänd helped to proofread the manuscript. The study was financed by Estonian Science Foundation grant #6222 to PH. The study was conducted in compliance with ethical standards of animal treatment according to Estonian laws under the license from the Estonian Ministry of the Environment.

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Correspondence to Lauri Saks.

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Karu, U., Saks, L. & Hõrak, P. Carotenoid-based plumage coloration is not affected by vitamin E supplementation in male greenfinches. Ecol Res 23, 931–935 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-007-0457-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-007-0457-x

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