Plumage colour is related to ectosymbiont load during moult in the serin, Serinus serinus: an experimental study

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2003
Authors:Figuerola, J, Dom, Senar, JC
Journal:Animal Behaviour
Date Published:2003
ISBN Number:0003-3472
Keywords:Fringillidae, Serinus, Serinus serinus
Abstract:Various hypotheses propose that plumage ornamentation is a reliable indicator of the health or resistance to parasites and illness of individuals. The impact of endoparasites on plumage brightness has only recently been demonstrated experimentally. We tested the impact of ectosymbionts, in particular feather mites, on plumage brightness, using 2 years of observational data and experiments in the field. The abundance of feather mites during moult was negatively correlated with brightness and saturation of plumage coloration developed by male serins. The application of an insecticide before moult resulted in experimental males developing a brighter plumage than control individuals. Experimental adult males, but not juveniles, also developed more saturated plumages in one of the years, but did not differ from controls in the other year. This is the first experimental demonstration that ectosymbionts (including mites) have a negative impact on the characteristics of the plumage developed and consequently can signal the healthiness of their hosts. Copyright 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd on behalf of The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
Short Title:Animal Behaviour
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