Yolk antioxidants vary with male attractiveness and female condition in the house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)

Kristen J. Navara, Alexander V. Badyaev, Mary T. Mendonça, Geoffrey E. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The manipulation of egg content is one of the few ways by which female birds can alter offspring quality before hatch. Lipid-soluble vitamins and carotenoids are potent antioxidants. Female birds deposit these antioxidants into eggs in variable amounts according to environmental and social conditions, and the quantities deposited into eggs can have effects on offspring health and immunological condition. Allocation theory posits that females will alter the distribution of resources according to mate quality, sometimes allocating resources according to the differential allocation hypothesis (DAH), investing more in offspring sired by better-quality males, and other times allocating resources according to a compensatory strategy, enhancing the quality of offspring sired by lower-quality males. It is unknown, however, whether antioxidants are deposited into eggs according to the DAH or a compensatory strategy. We examined deposition patterns of yolk antioxidants (including vitamin E and three carotenoids) in relation to laying order, mate attractiveness, female condition, and yolk androgen content in the house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus). Female house finches deposited significantly more total antioxidants into eggs sired by less attractive males. Additionally, yolk antioxidant content was significantly positively correlated with female condition, which suggests a cost associated with the deposition of antioxidants into eggs. Finally, concentrations of antioxidants in egg yolks were positively correlated with total yolk androgen content. We suggest that yolk antioxidants are deposited according to a compensatory deposition strategy, enabling females to improve the quality of young produced with less attractive males. Additionally, yolk antioxidants may act to counter some of the detrimental effects associated with high levels of yolk androgens in eggs and, thus, may exert a complementary effect to yolk androgens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1098-1105
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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