Eggshell colour, Haematocrit, Sexual signal
One hypothesis to explain the blue–green colour of the eggs of many bird species is that it is a sexually-selected signal of the laying female’s quality, which males use to determine their investment. This hypothesis requires that eggshell pigmentation carries a cost or is otherwise linked to female quality. One potential cost is that biliverdin, a haem derivative and the pigment responsible for eggshell colouration, is limiting. To assess this potential cost, we attempted to manipulate haematocrit and haemoglobin in free-living European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris Linnaeus). Upon collecting unmanipulated first clutches, we treated females with phenylhydrazine (PHZ), a haemolytic agent, and measured the blue–green chroma and reproductive performance of replacement clutches. We also investigated whether eggshell colour was associated with haematocrit or haemoglobin levels in unmanipulated first clutches. To test whether eggshell colour might act as a sexual signal, we examined associations between eggshell colour and reproductive performance, as well as the provisioning rate of the male.
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Fronstin, Raime B.; Doucet, Stéphanie M.; and Christians, Julian K., "Haematocrit, eggshell colouration and sexual signaling in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris)" (2016). BMC Ecology, 16, 31.