Carotenoid Modulation of Immune Function and Sexual Attractiveness in Zebra Finches

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Science  04 Apr 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5616, pp. 125-127
DOI: 10.1126/science.1082142

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One hypothesis for why females in many animal species frequently prefer to mate with the most elaborately ornamented males predicts that availability of carotenoid pigments is a potentially limiting factor for both ornament expression and immune function. An implicit assumption of this hypothesis is that males that can afford to produce more elaborate carotenoid-dependent displays must be healthier individuals with superior immunocompetence. However, whether variation in circulating carotenoid levels causes variation in both immune function and sexual attractiveness has not been determined in any species. In this study, we show that manipulation of dietary carotenoid supply invokes parallel changes in cell-mediated immune function and sexual attractiveness in male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata).

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