Early life stress shapes female reproductive strategy through eggshell pigmentation in Japanese quail

C. Duval, C. Zimmer, I. Mikšík, P. Cassey, K.A. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Physiological constraints on colouration have been widely reported; especially in birds, which trade-off antioxidant responses against colourful costly signals. One female extended phenotypic trait, which might also highlight important physiological trade-offs, is the pigmentation of their eggshells. In ground-nesting species, producing eggs that are visually undetectable by predators is the best camouflage strategy. However, the condition-dependence of eggshell pigmentation, and the pigments role in oxidative stress, may constrain females to trade-off between their antioxidant capacity and maximising the camouflage of their eggs when they deposit eggshell pigments. Developmental stress is one factor that influences female antioxidant capacity, and could lead to variations in eggshell pigmentation that might have crucial consequences on individual fitness if egg crypsis is compromised especially under stressful conditions. We investigated the interaction between developmental and breeding conditions with respect to eggshell pigmentation in Japanese quail. We studied 30 females that bred under both control and stressful conditions, and were exposed to pre- and/or post-natal stress, or neither. Pre- and post-natal stress independently influenced eggshell pigmentation strategies under stressful breeding conditions. Under stressful reproduction, eggshell protoporphyrin concentration and maculation were affected by pre-natal stress, whereas eggshell reflectance and biliverdin concentration were influenced by post-natal stress. These changes may reflect potential adaptive strategies shaped by developmental stress, but additional data on the benefit of egg crypsis in quail, combined with studies on the role of both pigments on chick survival, will help to clarify whether early life stress can enhance fitness through eggshell pigmentation when developmental and reproductive environments match.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages8
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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