Matching Items (4)

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Developmental plasticity: the influence of neonatal diet and immune challenges on carotenoid-based ornamental coloration and adult immune function in mallard ducks

Description

Conditions during development can shape the expression of traits at adulthood, a phenomenon called developmental plasticity. In this context, factors such as nutrition or health state during development can affect

Conditions during development can shape the expression of traits at adulthood, a phenomenon called developmental plasticity. In this context, factors such as nutrition or health state during development can affect current and subsequent physiology, body size, brain structure, ornamentation, and behavior. However, many of the links between developmental and adult phenotype are poorly understood. I performed a series of experiments using a common molecular currency - carotenoid pigments - to track somatic and reproductive investments through development and into adulthood. Carotenoids are red, orange, or yellow pigments that: (a) animals must acquire from their diets, (b) can be physiologically beneficial, acting as antioxidants or immunostimulants, and (c) color the sexually attractive features (e.g., feathers, scales) of many animals. I studied how carotenoid nutrition and immune challenges during ontogeny impacted ornamental coloration and immune function of adult male mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos). Male mallards use carotenoids to pigment their yellow beak, and males with more beaks that are more yellow are preferred as mates, have increased immune function, and have higher quality sperm. In my dissertation work, I established a natural context for the role that carotenoids and body condition play in the formation of the adult phenotype and examined how early-life experiences, including immune challenges and dietary access to carotenoids, affect adult immune function and ornamental coloration. Evidence from mallard ducklings in the field showed that variation in circulating carotenoid levels at hatch are likely driven by maternal allocation of carotenoids, but that carotenoid physiology shifts during the subsequent few weeks to reflect individual foraging habits. In the lab, adult beak color expression and immune function were more tightly correlated with body condition during growth than body condition during subsequent stages of development or adulthood. Immune challenges during development affected adult immune function and interacted with carotenoid physiology during adulthood, but did not affect adult beak coloration. Dietary access to carotenoids during development, but not adulthood, also affected adult immune function. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of the developmental stage in shaping certain survival-related traits (i.e., immune function), and lead to further questions regarding the development of ornamental traits.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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The costs and consequences of iridescent coloration in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna)

Description

Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with

Colorful ornaments in animals often serve as sexually selected signals of quality. While pigment-based colors are well-studied in these regards, structural colors that result from the interaction of light with photonic nanostructures are comparatively understudied in terms of their consequences in social contexts, their costs of production, and even the best way to measure them. Iridescent colors are some of the most brilliant and conspicuous colors in nature, and I studied the measurement, condition-dependence, and signaling role of iridescence in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna). While most animal colors are easily quantified using well-established spectrophotometric techniques, the unique characteristics of iridescent colors present challenges to measurement and opportunities to quantify novel color metrics. I designed and tested an apparatus for careful control and measurement of viewing geometry and highly repeatable measurements. These measurements could be used to accurately characterize individual variation in iridescent Anna's hummingbirds to examine their condition-dependence and signaling role. Next, I examined the literature published to date for evidence of condition-dependence of structural colors in birds. Using meta-analyses, I found that structural colors of all three types - white, ultra-violet/blue, and iridescence - are significantly condition-dependent, meaning that they can convey information about quality to conspecifics. I then investigated whether iridescent colors were condition-dependent in Anna's hummingbirds both in a field correlational study and in an experimental study. Throughout the year, I found that iridescent feathers in both male and female Anna's hummingbirds become less brilliant as they age. Color was not correlated with body condition in any age/sex group. However, iridescent coloration in male Anna's hummingbirds was significantly affected by experimental protein in the diet during feather growth, indicating that iridescent color may signal diet quality. Finally, I examined how iridescent colors were used to mediate social competitions in male and female Anna's hummingbirds. Surprisingly, males that were less colorful won significantly more contests than more colorful males, and colorful males received more aggression. Less colorful males may be attempting to drive away colorful neighbors that may be preferred mates. Female iridescent ornament size and color was highly variable, but did not influence contest outcomes or aggression.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Color and communication in Habronattus jumping spiders: tests of sexual and ecological selection

Description

Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding

Differences between males and females can evolve through a variety of mechanisms, including sexual and ecological selection. Because coloration is evolutionarily labile, sexually dichromatic species are good models for understanding the evolution of sex differences. While many jumping spiders exhibit diverse and brilliant coloration, they have been notably absent from such studies. In the genus Habronattus, females are drab and cryptic while males are brilliantly colored, displaying some of these colors to females during elaborate courtship dances. Here I test multiple hypotheses for the control and function of male color. In the field, I found that Habronattus males indiscriminately court any female they encounter (including other species), so I first examined the role that colors play in species recognition. I manipulated male colors in H. pyrrithrix and found that while they are not required for species recognition, the presence of red facial coloration improves courtship success, but only if males are courting in the sun. Because light environment affects transmission of color signals, the multi-colored displays of males may facilitate communication in variable and unpredictable environments. Because these colors can be costly to produce and maintain, they also have the potential to signal reliable information about male quality to potential female mates. I found that both red facial and green leg coloration is condition dependent in H. pyrrithrix and thus has the potential to signal quality. Yet, surprisingly, this variation in male color does not appear to be important to females. Males of many Habronattus species also exhibit conspicuous markings on the dorsal surface of their abdomens that are not present in females and are oriented away from females during courtship. In the field, I found that these markings are paired with increased leg-waving behavior in a way that resembles the pattern and behavior of wasps; this may provide protection by exploiting the aversions of predators. My data also suggest that different activity levels between the sexes have placed different selection pressures on their dorsal color patterns. Overall, these findings challenge some of the traditional ways that we think about color signaling and provide novel insights into the evolution of animal coloration.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Avian retinal carotenoid accumulation: ecophysiological constraints and behavioral consequences

Description

The elaborate signals of animals are often costly to produce and maintain, thus communicating reliable information about the quality of an individual to potential mates or competitors. The properties of

The elaborate signals of animals are often costly to produce and maintain, thus communicating reliable information about the quality of an individual to potential mates or competitors. The properties of the sensory systems that receive signals can drive the evolution of these signals and shape their form and function. However, relatively little is known about the ecological and physiological constraints that may influence the development and maintenance of sensory systems. In the house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) and many other bird species, carotenoid pigments are used to create colorful sexually selected displays, and their expression is limited by health and dietary access to carotenoids. Carotenoids also accumulate in the avian retina, protecting it from photodamage and tuning color vision. Analogous to plumage carotenoid accumulation, I hypothesized that avian vision is subject to environmental and physiological constraints imposed by the acquisition and allocation of carotenoids. To test this hypothesis, I carried out a series of field and captive studies of the house finch to assess natural variation in and correlates of retinal carotenoid accumulation and to experimentally investigate the effects of dietary carotenoid availability, immune activation, and light exposure on retinal carotenoid accumulation. Moreover, through dietary manipulations of retinal carotenoid accumulation, I tested the impacts of carotenoid accumulation on visually mediated foraging and mate choice behaviors. My results indicate that avian retinal carotenoid accumulation is variable and significantly influenced by dietary carotenoid availability and immune system activity. Behavioral studies suggest that retinal carotenoid accumulation influences visual foraging performance and mediates a trade-off between color discrimination and photoreceptor sensitivity under dim-light conditions. Retinal accumulation did not influence female choice for male carotenoid-based coloration, indicating that a direct link between retinal accumulation and sexual selection for coloration is unlikely. However, retinal carotenoid accumulation in males was positively correlated with their plumage coloration. Thus, carotenoid-mediated visual health and performance or may be part of the information encoded in sexually selected coloration.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011