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Effects of neonatal nutrition on adult reproduction in a passerine bird

Authors

  • JONATHAN D. BLOUNT,

    1. Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, Graham Kerr Building, Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
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    • Present address: Centre for Ecology & Conservation, University of Exeter in Cornwall, Tremough, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK.

  • NEIL B. METCALFE,

    1. Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, Graham Kerr Building, Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
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  • KATHRYN E. ARNOLD,

    1. Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, Graham Kerr Building, Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
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  • PETER F. SURAI,

    1. Avian Science Research Centre, Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive, Ayr KA6 5HW, UK
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  • PAT MONAGHAN

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Environmental & Evolutionary Biology, Graham Kerr Building, Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
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*Corresponding author. Email: p.monaghan@bio.gla.ac.uk

Abstract

Effects of neonatal nutrition on adult reproductive performance have been little studied. In Zebra Finches Taeniopygia guttata, poor neonatal nutrition is known to be associated with reduced blood antioxidant levels in adulthood, which could impair reproductive performance. Here, we compare the effects of standard-quality (SQ) or lower-quality (LQ) neonatal nutrition on components of fecundity. Compared with controls, LQ birds took longer to initiate egg-laying, and then laid eggs at a slower rate. LQ birds did not, however, show reduced clutch mass or size, or yolk antioxidant levels (retinol; α- or γ-tocopherol; carotenoids). Zebra Finches breed opportunistically, often only once in their short lifetime. Therefore, the timing but also the number and quality of eggs are critical fitness-related traits. Our results indicate that LQ birds had impaired reproductive capacity, suggesting resource accumulation constraints. Maximizing egg number and quality appears to have been more important than rapid egg production.

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