Nestling begging intensity and parental effort in relation to prelaying carotenoid availability

Helfenstein F., Berthouly A., Tanner M., Karadaş F., Richner H.

BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, vol.19, no.1, pp.108-115, 2008 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 19 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1093/beheco/arm103
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.108-115
  • Keywords: begging, food provisioning, maternally derived carotenoids, parasites, parental care, reproductive investment, GREAT TITS, DIETARY CAROTENOIDS, IMMUNE FUNCTION, CLUTCH SIZE, EGG-YOLK, EVOLUTION, SIGNALS, PARUS, REPRODUCTION, INVESTMENT
  • Van Yüzüncü Yıl University Affiliated: Yes


Carotenoids are antioxidants playing major roles in physiological functions at various stages of an animal's life. Female birds deposit large amounts of carotenoids into their eggs. Carotenoids are, however, a limiting resource, and females are expected to balance carotenoid deposition into the eggs with their utilization for themselves. Carotenoid availability is thus likely to determine both the levels of yolk carotenoids and maternal care during rearing. Carotenoids have been shown to benefit the embryo and the growing nestling, and it can be hypothesized that an increase in carotenoid availability during laying leads to higher nestling condition and competitive ability. We manipulated carotenoid availability to great tit pairs prior to and during egg laying and later partially cross-fostered chicks at hatching. During the rearing period, we measured how carotenoid availability affected nestlings begging behavior and male and female feeding effort. We also manipulated the ectoparasite load, predicting that carotenoid supplementation would help adults and nestling to cope with parasites. Nestlings hatched from eggs laid by carotenoid-supplemented females and raised in small broods begged more intensely. Nestlings in small deparasitized broods also begged more actively. The feeding effort of control females increased with brood size, whereas the feeding effort of carotenoid-supplemented females was high whatever the brood size. Male feeding effort was unaffected by our treatment. Our results support the hypothesis that maternally derived carotenoids increase nestling begging behavior and hence competitive ability. They further suggest that carotenoid availability determines the level of parental investment and can mediate trade-offs between life-history traits.