Maternal investment of female mallards is influenced by male carotenoid-based coloration

M. Giraudeau, C. Duval, G. Á Czirják, V. Bretagnolle, C. Eraud, Kevin McGraw, P. Heeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The differential allocation hypothesis predicts that females modify their investment in a breeding attempt according to its reproductive value. One prediction of this hypothesis is that females will increase reproductive investment when mated to high-quality males. In birds, it was shown that females can modulate pre-hatch reproductive investment by manipulating egg and clutch sizes and/or the concentrations of egg internal compounds according to paternal attractiveness. However, the differential allocation of immune factors has seldom been considered, particularly with an experimental approach. The carotenoid-based ornaments can function as reliable signals of quality, indicating better immunity or ability to resist parasites. Thus, numerous studies show that females use the expression of carotenoid-based colour when choosing mates; but the influence of this paternal coloration on maternal investment decisions has seldom been considered and has only been experimentally studied with artificial manipulation of male coloration. Here, we used dietary carotenoid provisioning to manipulate male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) bill coloration, a sexually selected trait, and followed female investment. We show that an increase of male bill coloration positively influenced egg mass and albumen lysozyme concentration. By contrast, yolk carotenoid concentration was not affected by paternal ornamentation. Maternal decisions highlighted in this study may influence chick survival and compel males to maintain carotenoid-based coloration from the mate-choice period until egg-laying has been finished.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-788
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1706
StatePublished - Mar 7 2011


  • Albumen lysozyme concentration
  • Carotenoid-based coloration
  • Egg mass
  • Maternal investment
  • Paternal ornamentation
  • Yolk carotenoid concentration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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