Carotenoids in the seminal fluid of wild birds: Interspecific variation in fairy-wrens

Melissah Rowe, Kevin McGraw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Male secondary sexual characters can provide females with information regarding the fertilizing capacity of a male's sperm. In some fishes and birds, intense nuptial coloration is correlated with male fertilizing capacity, but no mechanistic link between coloration and sperm quality has been established. One plausible mechanism is that carotenoid pigments, which color skin and feathers in many animals, are present in seminal fluid and serve as antioxidant protectors of sperm. We used high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to analyze sperm samples from four species of Australian fairy-wren (Malurus) and detected low concentrations (<1 μg ml-1) of carotenoids in some samples. Xanthophyll carotenoids (including lutein and zeaxanthin), which are typically dietary in origin, were present in the seminal fluid of Superb (M. cyaneus) and Splendid (M. splendens) Fairy-Wrens. In contrast, red ketocarotenoids (including astaxanthin and canthaxanthin), which are likely metabolically derived from dietary precursors, were present in the seminal fluid of Red-backed Fairy-Wrens (M. melanocephalus). This work is the first to report carotenoids in avian seminal fluid and suggests that, although carotenoids are at low levels and thus may have limited antioxidant activity, there may be biological variability in avian semen carotenoids on which selection could act.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-700
Number of pages7
JournalCondor
Volume110
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

Fingerprint

Troglodytidae
interspecific variation
wild birds
carotenoid
carotenoids
bird
sperm
fluid
spermatozoa
lutein
antioxidant
color
canthaxanthin
astaxanthin
zeaxanthin
feather
skin (animal)
feathers
fluids
pigment

Keywords

  • Antioxidants
  • Carotenoid pigments
  • Malurus
  • Oxidative stress
  • Sexual competence
  • Sperm sperm competition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Carotenoids in the seminal fluid of wild birds : Interspecific variation in fairy-wrens. / Rowe, Melissah; McGraw, Kevin.

In: Condor, Vol. 110, No. 4, 2008, p. 694-700.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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