Egg yolk antioxidant deposition as a function of parental ornamentation, age, and environment in great tits Parus major


  • Vladimír Remeš,

  • Beata Matysioková,

  • Bořivoj Klejdus

V. Remeš ( and B. Matysioková, Laboratory of Ornithology, Palacký Univ., Tr. Svobody 26, CZ-77146, Olomouc, Czech Republic. – B. Klejdus, Dept of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mendel Univ. in Brno, Zemedelska 1, CZ-613 00, Brno, Czech Republic.


Females can modify phenotype of their offspring through the deposition of biologically active compounds into eggs, including carotenoids, vitamins and other antioxidants. Understanding patterns of deposition is critical for better insight into the significance of maternal effects. Here we investigated how egg yolk antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin, β-carotene, vitamin A and E) related to environmental conditions and parental characteristics in great tits Parus major using data from three breeding seasons. Male and female traits included condition, age and multiple feather ornaments, both carotenoid- and melanin-based (carotenoid and UV chroma of yellow breast feathers, area of black breast band, white cheek immaculateness). Yolk mass increased with ambient temperature during laying, laying date, and the area of male black breast band. Lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin E increased with laying date. Total antioxidants increased with female age, immaculateness of female white cheek patch, and UV chroma of carotenoid-based yellow breast feathers of the social mate. These patterns were thus consistent with 1) environmental effects on yolk mass and composition, 2) higher quality females depositing more antioxidants, and 3) differential allocation of resources in females in relation to male ornamentation. Overall, environmental factors, female traits, and male traits all had an influence on egg yolk characteristics in this socially monogamous songbird.