Red Hot Lipid peroxidation and color based assortative mating in black guillemots (Cepphus grylle)

Meeting Abstract

P2.76  Tuesday, Jan. 5  Red Hot: Lipid peroxidation and color based assortative mating in black guillemots (Cepphus grylle) MARCHETTO, N.M.*; CARLTON, E.D.; MAUCK, R.A.; HAUSSMANN, M.F.; Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg; Kenyon College, Gambier; Kenyon College, Gambier; Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg

Exaggerated traits can be costly to produce, but benefit the carrier by signaling its individual quality. The bright red feet of the monomorphic Black guillemot (Cepphus grylle) may act as such a signal. Our lab has previously shown that C. grylle mates assortatively based on the red intensity of foot color. However, the physiological and genetic significance underlying this signal remains unknown. Recognizing the association between bright red color and certain dietary antioxidants, C. grylle may be signaling information about oxidative stress levels. Peroxides and free radicals are a consequence of aerobic metabolism and cause oxidative damage in DNA, proteins and lipids. Oxidative damage, such as lipid peroxidation, is responsible for many diseases and is widely considered to be a main contributor to the aging process. We propose that increased intensity of red foot color is an honest signal of health with regard to oxidative stress. The increased red intensity may be related to lower levels of oxidative damage. To assess intensity of red foot color, we digitally photographed the right foot of 21 C. grylle during the breeding season of 2007 on Kent Island, New Brunswick, Canada and analyzed RGB values using Adobe Photoshop. The plasma isolated from blood samples was used to run a TBARS Assay for lipid peroxidation. We found that red intensity of guillemot feet was negatively correlated with lipid peroxidation levels (P=0.0138). Although the specific mechanism is unclear, lower lipid peroxidation levels suggest increased resistance to oxidative damage. The value of foot color as a signal of oxidative stress may help explain the previously demonstrated assortative mating by foot color in C. grylle.

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