Colour change in a structural ornament is related to individual quality, parasites and mating patterns in the blue tit
Rivero-de Aguilar, J
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Currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Springer Verlag. 12 month embargo required on publication
Carry-over effects refer to processes that occur in one season and influence fitness in the following. In birds, two costly activities, namely reproduction and moult, are restricted to a small time window, and sometimes overlap. Thus, colour in newly moulted feathers is likely to be affected by the costs of reproduction. Using models of bird vision we investigated male colour change in a free-living population of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) in 3 sampling occasions: spring 1, winter, spring 2. We related crown, tail, breast and cheek feather colouration after the moult (winter) to the intensity of infections by blood parasites during reproduction (spring 1). In the following spring (spring 2), we explored mating patterns with respect to changes in feather colour (spring 1 vs. 2). Males that were less intensely infected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium while breeding showed purer white cheek feathers in winter, which may indicate higher feather quality. Increased brightness in the white cheek was associated with better body condition during reproduction. In the following season, males with brighter cheeks paired with females that had noticeably brighter cheek patches compared to the male’s previous mate. These results suggest that the conditions experienced during reproduction are likely to affect moult and thus feather colouration, at least in the white patch. High quality individuals may allocate resources efficiently during reproduction increasing future reproductive success through variation in mating patterns. Carry-over effects from reproduction might extend not only to the non-breeding phase, but also to the following breeding season.
This study was funded by projects CGL2012-40026-C02-01 and CGL2012-40026-C02-02 from the MEC (Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad).
This is the author accepted manuscript.
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