Carotenoid trade-off between parasitic resistance and sexual display: an experimental study in the blackbird (Turdus merula). - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Year : 2008

Carotenoid trade-off between parasitic resistance and sexual display: an experimental study in the blackbird (Turdus merula).

Abstract

Many parasites depress the expression of the carotenoid-based colour displays of their hosts, and it has been hypothesized that animals face a trade-off in carotenoid allocation between immune functions and 'degree of ornamentation'. While numerous correlative studies suggest that parasite infection decreases the intensity of carotenoid-based colour displays, the existence of this trade-off has never been demonstrated experimentally in a host-parasite model. In this study, we used the blackbird (Turdus merula) and Isospora (an intestinal parasite) to assess whether this trade-off does indeed exist. Blackbirds were supplemented with carotenoids while simultaneously being exposed to parasites. Supplemented males circulated more carotenoids in the blood and developed more brightly coloured bills than unsupplemented males. In addition, supplementation slowed down the replication rate of parasites. Supplementation with carotenoids enabled infected birds to maintain their bill coloration, whereas birds that were infected but not supplemented showed reduced bill coloration. At the same time, infection slowed carotenoid assimilation in the blood. Overall, we demonstrated that bill colour reflects a bird's health, and that only males with a carotenoid-rich diet are capable of coping with costs associated with parasitic infection. Carotenoids are thus traded off between host physiological response to parasites and secondary sexual traits. Further investigations are required to determine the physiological mechanisms that govern this trade-off.

Dates and versions

hal-00221560 , version 1 (29-01-2008)

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R. Baeta, Bruno Faivre, Sébastien Motreuil, Maria Gaillard, Jérôme Moreau. Carotenoid trade-off between parasitic resistance and sexual display: an experimental study in the blackbird (Turdus merula).. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2008, 275 (1633), pp.427-434. ⟨10.1098/rspb.2007.1383⟩. ⟨hal-00221560⟩
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