Neonatal nutrition, adult antioxidant defences and sexual attractiveness in the zebra finch

Blount, J., Metcalfe, N. , Arnold, K., Surai, P., Devevey, G. and Monaghan, P. (2003) Neonatal nutrition, adult antioxidant defences and sexual attractiveness in the zebra finch. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences, 270, pp. 1691-1696. (doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2411)

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Early nutrition has recently been shown to have pervasive, downstream effects on adult life-history parameters including lifespan, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Damage to biomolecules caused by oxidants, such as free radicals generated during metabolic processes, is widely recognized as a key contributor to somatic degeneration and the rate of ageing. Lipophilic antioxidants (carotenoids, vitamins A and E) are an important component of vertebrate defences against such damage. By using an avian model, we show here that independent of later nutrition, individuals experiencing a short period of low-quality nutrition during the nestling period had a twofold reduction in plasma levels of these antioxidants at adulthood. We found no effects on adult external morphology or sexual attractiveness: in mate-choice trials females did not discriminate between adult males that had received standard- or lower-quality diet as neonates. Our results suggest low-quality neonatal nutrition resulted in a long-term impairment in the capacity to assimilate dietary antioxidants, thereby setting up a need to trade off the requirement for antioxidant activity against the need to maintain morphological development and sexual attractiveness. Such state-dependent trade-offs could underpin the link between early nutrition and senescence.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Monaghan, Professor Patricia and Metcalfe, Professor Neil and Arnold, Dr Kathryn
Authors: Blount, J., Metcalfe, N., Arnold, K., Surai, P., Devevey, G., and Monaghan, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
ISSN (Online):1471-2954

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
297621Ageing and the environment: the effects of early nutrition and reproductive effort in birdsPatricia MonaghanNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NER/A/S/2000/01RI BIODIVERSITY ANIMAL HEALTH & COMPMED