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Pagani-Nunez E.,Evolutionary Ecology Associate Research Unit Csic Natural History Museum Of Barcelona Psg Picasso S N 08003 Barcelona Espana Spain | Uribe F.,Evolutionary Ecology Associate Research Unit Csic Natural History Museum Of Barcelona Psg Picasso S N 08003 Barcelona Espana Spain | Hernandez-Gomez S.,Evolutionary Ecology Associate Research Unit Csic Natural History Museum Of Barcelona Psg Picasso S N 08003 Barcelona Espana Spain | Munoz G.,Evolutionary Ecology Associate Research Unit Csic Natural History Museum Of Barcelona Psg Picasso S N 08003 Barcelona Espana Spain | Senar J.C.,Evolutionary Ecology Associate Research Unit Csic Natural History Museum Of Barcelona Psg Picasso S N 08003 Barcelona Espana Spain
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2014

Carotenoid-based coloration of nestling plumage is generally considered a reliable signal of quality and has consistently been related to habitat structure. The main hypothesis proposed to explain this correlation is that high quality habitats contain high quality food, which in return affects the expression of carotenoid-based plumage. It therefore assumes that, at the population level, the link between habitat structure and food composition is consistent and more relevant than inter-individual differences in foraging ability or parental investment. In addition, it is assumed by default that food and habitat produce concordant effects on nestling coloration. In this work we evaluated habitat structure and prey composition in addition to several measures of parental investment. We investigated their relative effect on carotenoid-based plumage coloration (lightness, chroma and hue) of great tit Parus major nestlings. We found a low correlation between carotenoid-based coloration of nestlings and that of their parents. Nestling coloration, especially lightness and chroma, increased with the intake of more spiders. The time of breeding was positively correlated with lightness and chroma and negatively correlated with hue. Finally, the maturity of oak trees surrounding nest-boxes correlated negatively with lightness, and the size of all tree species surrounding nest-boxes correlated positively with hue of chick plumage. Our findings support the view that habitat structure and prey composition may produce divergent effects on feather pigmentation, and that prey proportions and variables related to parental investment should be assessed when considering carotenoid-based coloration of chicks. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London.

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