Early maternal, genetic and environmental components of antioxidant protection, morphology and immunity of yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) chicks


Nicola Saino, Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, via Celoria 26, I-20133 Milano, Italy.
Tel.: +39 02 50314808
e-mail: nicola.saino@unimi.it


Maternal effects mediated by egg quality are important sources of offspring phenotypic variation and can influence the course of evolutionary processes. Mothers allocate to the eggs diverse antioxidants that protect the embryo from oxidative stress. In the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), yolk antioxidant capacity varied markedly among clutches and declined considerably with egg laying date. Analysis of bioptic yolk samples from clutches that were subsequently partially cross-fostered revealed a positive effect of yolk antioxidant capacity on embryonic development and chick growth, but not on immunity and begging behaviour, while controlling for parentage and common environment effects. Chick plasma antioxidant capacity varied according to rearing environment, after statistically partitioning out maternal influences mediated by egg quality. Thus, the results of this study indicate that egg antioxidants are important mediators of maternal effects also in wild bird populations, especially during the critical early post-hatching phase.