The effect of dietary carotenoid access on sexual dichromatism and plumage pigment composition in the American goldfinch

K. J. McGraw, G. E. Hill, R. Stradi, R. S. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

We investigated potential dietary and biochemical bases for carotenoid-based sexual dichromatism in American goldfinches (Carduelis tristis). Captive male and female finches were given access to the same type and amount of carotenoid pigments in the diet during their nuptial molt to assess differences in the degree to which the two sexes incorporated ingested pigments into their plumage. When birds were fed a uniform, plain-seed diet, or one that was supplemented with the red carotenoid canthaxanthin, we found that males grew more colorful plumage than females. HPLC analyses of feather pigments revealed that male finches incorporated a higher concentration of carotenoids into their pigmented feathers than females. Compared to females, males also deposited significantly more canary xanthophyll B into feathers when fed a plain-seed diet and a greater concentration and proportion of canthaxanthin when fed a carotenoid-supplemented diet. These results indicate that sex-specific expression of carotenoid pigmentation in American goldfinches may be affected by the means by which males and females physiologically utilize (e.g. absorb, transport, metabolize, deposit) carotenoid pigments available to them in the diet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Volume131
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cardueline finches
  • Carduelis tristis
  • Carotenoid biochemistry
  • Carotenoid physiology
  • Carotenoid pigments
  • Diet
  • HPLC
  • Plumage coloration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology

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