Title

Early nutritional stress and iridescent structural colour production in adult European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris: does early stress aversely influence plumage colouration?

Prize Winner

Streaming Media

Type of Proposal

Oral presentation

Start Date

31-3-2017 10:30 AM

End Date

31-3-2017 11:50 AM

Faculty

Faculty of Science

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Stéphanie M. Doucet

Abstract

Within avian taxa, plumage ornamentation traits have been widely used to study sexual selection, as many of these traits have been shown to honestly reveal individual health and influence mate choice. The majority of previous studies have focused on carotenoid-based pigments. Recently, there has been an increasing shift towards understanding the role of structural colours, which produce green, blue, violet, and iridescent colours from the nanostructural arrangement of feather barbules rather than pigments. Our study explores how early nutritional stress affects iridescent structural colour production in European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris. We hypothesize that nestlings living in stressful environments will display a reduction in plumage brightness in later adulthood compared to those that have unlimited access to resources, as iridescent colouration appears to be a condition-dependent trait in this and other species. We analyzed the breast, throat, back, and tail feathers of European Starlings that were hand raised at the Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) at Western University, Ontario. Nestlings in the experimental group were raised on a restricted diet for the first 18 days, followed by random access to food for 18-100 days, while control birds had access to ad libitum throughout the study. After 100 days, a few feathers from each body region were collected and analyzed using reflectance spectrometry to determine whether there is a significant association between plumage colouration and nutritional condition. If our data reveal an association between early nutritional stress and adult plumage colouration, our results will support the condition-dependence of structural colours as well as the long-lasting consequences of early nutritional stress. Moreover, with continued habitat destruction and climate change, researchers need to understand how animals will respond to an increasing frequency of stressful events. Structural colours may become important non-invasive bioindicators of environmental stress.

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Mar 31st, 10:30 AM Mar 31st, 11:50 AM

Early nutritional stress and iridescent structural colour production in adult European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris: does early stress aversely influence plumage colouration?

Within avian taxa, plumage ornamentation traits have been widely used to study sexual selection, as many of these traits have been shown to honestly reveal individual health and influence mate choice. The majority of previous studies have focused on carotenoid-based pigments. Recently, there has been an increasing shift towards understanding the role of structural colours, which produce green, blue, violet, and iridescent colours from the nanostructural arrangement of feather barbules rather than pigments. Our study explores how early nutritional stress affects iridescent structural colour production in European Starlings, Sturnus vulgaris. We hypothesize that nestlings living in stressful environments will display a reduction in plumage brightness in later adulthood compared to those that have unlimited access to resources, as iridescent colouration appears to be a condition-dependent trait in this and other species. We analyzed the breast, throat, back, and tail feathers of European Starlings that were hand raised at the Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR) at Western University, Ontario. Nestlings in the experimental group were raised on a restricted diet for the first 18 days, followed by random access to food for 18-100 days, while control birds had access to ad libitum throughout the study. After 100 days, a few feathers from each body region were collected and analyzed using reflectance spectrometry to determine whether there is a significant association between plumage colouration and nutritional condition. If our data reveal an association between early nutritional stress and adult plumage colouration, our results will support the condition-dependence of structural colours as well as the long-lasting consequences of early nutritional stress. Moreover, with continued habitat destruction and climate change, researchers need to understand how animals will respond to an increasing frequency of stressful events. Structural colours may become important non-invasive bioindicators of environmental stress.