Phenotypic, genetic, and environmental causes of variation in yellow skin pigmentation and serum carotenoids in Eurasian kestrel nestlings
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Ecological research. - Madrid
, p. 273-279
In the context of sexual selection and parent-offspring communication, carotenoid-based coloration operates as a dynamic condition-dependent signal, as pigments stored in the skin and in the bill can be reallocated to other tissues in accordance with physiological needs. We studied the proximate factors affecting the carotenoid-dependent coloration of the Eurasian kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Kestrel nestlings show carotenoid-based coloration at the integument level. Adult males and females share similar characteristics, but to a different extent. By cross-fostering nestlings, we evaluated the importance of the nest of rearing and the nest of origin to determine variation in skin color and blood carotenoids. The nest of rearing accounted for most of the observed variance in skin color, as well as serum carotenoids, while the nest of origin was not causal to the variability of carotenoids in young kestrels. The study indirectly shows that carotenoid-based color expressed by young kestrels is not affected by pre-laying conditions. Furthermore, we found that carotenoid coloration and blood carotenoid concentration were correlated at phenotypic and environmental levels, while the hereditary component of the carotenoid traits was too low to estimate their correlation at the genetic level.