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Offspring plumage colouration as a condition-dependent signal in the blue tit
  • Jorge García-Campa,
  • Wendt Müller,
  • Judith Morales
Jorge García-Campa
National Museum of Natural Sciences

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Wendt Müller
University of Antwerp
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Judith Morales
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales
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In many species, offspring display conspicuous adult-like colouration already early in life, even though they might be very vulnerable to predation at this stage. Yet, the signalling function of adult-like traits in nestlings has been little explored to date. Here, we investigated whether the yellow breast plumage of blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) nestlings shows patterns of condition-dependence and hence signals individual quality, as has been described for adult birds. During three consecutive breeding seasons, we therefore explored the association between nestling body mass and three colour components of the yellow breast plumage (i.e., UV chroma, carotenoid chroma and total brightness), considering both within and among nest effects. Carotenoid chroma was not affected by body mass. However, UV chroma and total brightness showed an among-nest effect of body mass, suggesting that they might signal aspects of genetic quality or parental rearing capacity. Interestingly, we also found a within-nest effect of body mass on total brightness, suggesting that this is a good candidate for a condition-dependent signal within the family. Thus, other family members could rely on brightness to adjust their behavioural strategies, such as feeding behaviour in parents. Our study thus reveals that certain colour components of the yellow breast plumage signal different aspects of offspring quality and suggest that they might have a correlated signalling value across life-history stages.
28 Sep 2022Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
29 Sep 2022Submission Checks Completed
29 Sep 2022Assigned to Editor
02 Oct 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
04 Nov 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
09 Nov 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
10 Jan 20231st Revision Received
11 Jan 2023Submission Checks Completed
11 Jan 2023Assigned to Editor
11 Jan 2023Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
13 Jan 2023Editorial Decision: Accept