Effect of sibling competition and male carotenoid supply on offspring condition and oxidative stress

Losdat, Sylvain; Helfenstein, Fabrice; Gaude, Benoît; Richner, Heinz (2010). Effect of sibling competition and male carotenoid supply on offspring condition and oxidative stress. Behavioral Ecology, 21(6), pp. 1271-1277. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press 10.1093/beheco/arq147

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Early developmental conditions have major implications for an individual's fitness. In species where offspring are born simultaneously, the level of sibling competition for food access is intense. In birds, high sibling competition may subject nestlings to decreased growth rate as a result of limited food and increased levels of oxidative stress through high metabolic activity induced by begging behaviors. We manipulated the level of sibling competition in a natural population of great tits and assessed the consequences for nestling body condition and resistance to oxidative stress. In a full factorial design, we both augmented brood size to increase sibling competition and supplemented the male parents with physiological doses of carotenoids thereby doubling the natural carotenoid intake, aiming at increasing the males' investment in current reproduction and thereby decreasing sibling competition. Nestling body mass was reduced by the brood enlargement and enhanced by the carotenoid supplementation of fathers. Nestling resistance to oxidative stress, measured as total antioxidant defenses in whole blood, was not influenced by the treatments. Because nestlings experience high metabolic activities, an absence of an effect of sibling competition on free radicals production seems unlikely. Nestling body mass decreased and resistance to oxidative stress tended to increase with initial brood size, and hence these correlational effects suggest a trade-off between morphological growth and development of the antioxidant system. However, the result of the experimental treatment did not support this trade-off hypothesis. Alternatively, it suggests that nestling developed compensatory mechanisms that were not detected by our antioxidant capacity measure.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Evolutionary Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Richner, Heinz






Oxford University Press




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Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:17

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:04

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Web of Science ID:





https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/5235 (FactScience: 209965)

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