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Proc Biol Sci. Aug 22, 2002; 269(1501): 1729–1733.
PMCID: PMC1691081

Carotenoid concentration in barn swallow eggs is influenced by laying order, maternal infection and paternal ornamentation.


Carotenoids are critical to embryonic development, immunity and protection from oxidative stress. Transmission of carotenoids to the eggs may affect development and maturation of immunity in offspring, but carotenoids may be available to females in limiting amounts. Females may thus transfer carotenoids to the eggs differentially in relation to the reproductive value of the offspring as affected by sexual ornamentation of their father. In this study of maternal allocation of carotenoids to the eggs in the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica), females whose immune system had been experimentally challenged with an antigen had smaller lutein concentrations in their eggs than controls. We manipulated the size of a secondary sexual character (tail length) of males, and analysed the effect of manipulation on allocation of lutein to eggs by their vaccinated mates. Contrary to our prediction based on parental allocation theory, mates of tail-shortened males had a larger lutein concentration in their eggs compared with those of control and tail-elongated males. According to previous studies, offspring of short-tailed males have larger exposure and/or susceptibility to parasites. A larger lutein concentration in the eggs of females mated to males with experimentally reduced ornaments may thus reflect adaptive maternal strategies to enhance offspring viability.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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Articles from Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society


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