Carotenoid-based plumage coloration reflects feather corticosterone levels in male house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Á Z. Lendvai, M. Giraudeau, J. Németh, V. Bakó, K. J. McGraw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Indicator models of sexual selection predict that exaggerated traits communicate information about sender condition or quality to conspecific receivers. Environmental challenges have often been considered as one such condition that could be encoded in an ornamental trait, and there is now extensive evidence showing how different stressors (e.g., nutritional, parasitological, and environmental) impact sexual signal elaboration. One of the primary means of assessing stress is by quantifying glucocorticoid (corticosterone or cortisol (CORT)) levels. For many ornaments, CORT impairs trait expression; however, the evidence is limited and mixed for one of the classic honest signals in animals, ornamental carotenoid coloration. In a model species for studies of carotenoid ornamentation (the house finch, Haemorhous mexicanus), we examined the relationship between male plumage redness and feather CORT levels, which serve as an integrated measure of hormone concentration during feather growth. We measured CORT in both tail (melanin-containing) and breast (carotenoid-containing) feathers and found that CORT levels were not different between body regions, but they were negatively correlated with plumage hue, with redder birds having more CORT in feathers. Despite opposing traditional views on stress and ornamentation, our results actually corroborate three other studies showing positive relationships between carotenoid coloration and CORT levels. Though the molecular mechanisms underlying such a relationship are still unclear, our results suggest that CORT should not be considered as a simple indicator of individual quality but rather as a mediator of complex allocation decisions or signals of metabolic activity that could link up with more elaborate expression of ornamental traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1817-1824
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume67
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

Fingerprint

plumage
corticosterone
feather
carotenoid
feathers
cortisol
carotenoids
color
ornamentation
melanin
sexual selection
hormone
environmental impact
bird
body regions
Carpodacus mexicanus
animal
glucocorticoids
breasts
tail

Keywords

  • Honest signaling
  • Plumage ornamentation
  • Sexual selection
  • Stress hormones
  • Stress response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Carotenoid-based plumage coloration reflects feather corticosterone levels in male house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). / Lendvai, Á Z.; Giraudeau, M.; Németh, J.; Bakó, V.; McGraw, K. J.

In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Vol. 67, No. 11, 11.2013, p. 1817-1824.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{7824f845facf462fb87d14f258e230c1,
title = "Carotenoid-based plumage coloration reflects feather corticosterone levels in male house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)",
abstract = "Indicator models of sexual selection predict that exaggerated traits communicate information about sender condition or quality to conspecific receivers. Environmental challenges have often been considered as one such condition that could be encoded in an ornamental trait, and there is now extensive evidence showing how different stressors (e.g., nutritional, parasitological, and environmental) impact sexual signal elaboration. One of the primary means of assessing stress is by quantifying glucocorticoid (corticosterone or cortisol (CORT)) levels. For many ornaments, CORT impairs trait expression; however, the evidence is limited and mixed for one of the classic honest signals in animals, ornamental carotenoid coloration. In a model species for studies of carotenoid ornamentation (the house finch, Haemorhous mexicanus), we examined the relationship between male plumage redness and feather CORT levels, which serve as an integrated measure of hormone concentration during feather growth. We measured CORT in both tail (melanin-containing) and breast (carotenoid-containing) feathers and found that CORT levels were not different between body regions, but they were negatively correlated with plumage hue, with redder birds having more CORT in feathers. Despite opposing traditional views on stress and ornamentation, our results actually corroborate three other studies showing positive relationships between carotenoid coloration and CORT levels. Though the molecular mechanisms underlying such a relationship are still unclear, our results suggest that CORT should not be considered as a simple indicator of individual quality but rather as a mediator of complex allocation decisions or signals of metabolic activity that could link up with more elaborate expression of ornamental traits.",
keywords = "Honest signaling, Plumage ornamentation, Sexual selection, Stress hormones, Stress response",
author = "Lendvai, {{\'A} Z.} and M. Giraudeau and J. N{\'e}meth and V. Bak{\'o} and McGraw, {K. J.}",
year = "2013",
month = "11",
doi = "10.1007/s00265-013-1591-9",
language = "English",
volume = "67",
pages = "1817--1824",
journal = "Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology",
issn = "0340-5443",
publisher = "Springer Verlag",
number = "11",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Carotenoid-based plumage coloration reflects feather corticosterone levels in male house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus)

AU - Lendvai, Á Z.

AU - Giraudeau, M.

AU - Németh, J.

AU - Bakó, V.

AU - McGraw, K. J.

PY - 2013/11

Y1 - 2013/11

N2 - Indicator models of sexual selection predict that exaggerated traits communicate information about sender condition or quality to conspecific receivers. Environmental challenges have often been considered as one such condition that could be encoded in an ornamental trait, and there is now extensive evidence showing how different stressors (e.g., nutritional, parasitological, and environmental) impact sexual signal elaboration. One of the primary means of assessing stress is by quantifying glucocorticoid (corticosterone or cortisol (CORT)) levels. For many ornaments, CORT impairs trait expression; however, the evidence is limited and mixed for one of the classic honest signals in animals, ornamental carotenoid coloration. In a model species for studies of carotenoid ornamentation (the house finch, Haemorhous mexicanus), we examined the relationship between male plumage redness and feather CORT levels, which serve as an integrated measure of hormone concentration during feather growth. We measured CORT in both tail (melanin-containing) and breast (carotenoid-containing) feathers and found that CORT levels were not different between body regions, but they were negatively correlated with plumage hue, with redder birds having more CORT in feathers. Despite opposing traditional views on stress and ornamentation, our results actually corroborate three other studies showing positive relationships between carotenoid coloration and CORT levels. Though the molecular mechanisms underlying such a relationship are still unclear, our results suggest that CORT should not be considered as a simple indicator of individual quality but rather as a mediator of complex allocation decisions or signals of metabolic activity that could link up with more elaborate expression of ornamental traits.

AB - Indicator models of sexual selection predict that exaggerated traits communicate information about sender condition or quality to conspecific receivers. Environmental challenges have often been considered as one such condition that could be encoded in an ornamental trait, and there is now extensive evidence showing how different stressors (e.g., nutritional, parasitological, and environmental) impact sexual signal elaboration. One of the primary means of assessing stress is by quantifying glucocorticoid (corticosterone or cortisol (CORT)) levels. For many ornaments, CORT impairs trait expression; however, the evidence is limited and mixed for one of the classic honest signals in animals, ornamental carotenoid coloration. In a model species for studies of carotenoid ornamentation (the house finch, Haemorhous mexicanus), we examined the relationship between male plumage redness and feather CORT levels, which serve as an integrated measure of hormone concentration during feather growth. We measured CORT in both tail (melanin-containing) and breast (carotenoid-containing) feathers and found that CORT levels were not different between body regions, but they were negatively correlated with plumage hue, with redder birds having more CORT in feathers. Despite opposing traditional views on stress and ornamentation, our results actually corroborate three other studies showing positive relationships between carotenoid coloration and CORT levels. Though the molecular mechanisms underlying such a relationship are still unclear, our results suggest that CORT should not be considered as a simple indicator of individual quality but rather as a mediator of complex allocation decisions or signals of metabolic activity that could link up with more elaborate expression of ornamental traits.

KW - Honest signaling

KW - Plumage ornamentation

KW - Sexual selection

KW - Stress hormones

KW - Stress response

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84885918659&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84885918659&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1007/s00265-013-1591-9

DO - 10.1007/s00265-013-1591-9

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84885918659

VL - 67

SP - 1817

EP - 1824

JO - Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

JF - Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

SN - 0340-5443

IS - 11

ER -