Maternal adjustment or constraint: Differential effects of food availability on maternal deposition of macro-nutrients, steroids and thyroid hormones in rock pigeon eggs

Bin-Yan Hsu*, Cor Dijkstra, Veerle M. Darras, Bonnie de Vries, Ton G.G. Groothuis

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

22 Citaten (Scopus)
207 Downloads (Pure)


In oviparous species like birds, eggs provide the direct environment in which embryos are developing. Mothers may adjust different egg components in different ways in reaction to environmental cues either to adjust offspring development or because of constraints. In this study, we investigated the effects of food quality and quantity before and during egg laying on three different aspects of egg quality: macro-nutrients (egg and yolk mass), androgens (testosterone and androstenedione), and thyroid hormones (3,5,3-triiodothyronine, T3 and l-thyroxine, T4), using the rock pigeon (Columba livia). As expected, egg and yolk mass were significantly reduced for the eggs laid under the poor-food condition, indicating a maternal trade-off between offspring and self in allocating important resources. We did not find any significant change in yolk testosterone or their within-clutch pattern over the laying sequence. This is consistent with the fact that, in contrast with nutrients, these hormones are not costly to produce, but does not support the hypothesis that they play a role in adjusting brood size to food conditions. In contrast, we found that T3 levels were higher in the egg yolks under the poor-food condition whereas the total T4 content was lower. This change could be related to the fact that iodine, the critical constituent of thyroid hormones, might be a limiting factor in the production of this hormone. Given the knowledge that food restriction usually lead to reduction of circulating T3 levels, our results suggested that avian mothers can independently regulate its concentrations in their eggs from their own circulation. The study demonstrates that environmentally induced maternal effects via the egg can be a result of a combination of constrained resources and unconstrained signals and that thyroid hormones might be an interesting case of both. Therefore, this hormone and the interplay of different maternal effects on the offspring phenotype deserve much more attention.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)397-411
Aantal pagina's15
TijdschriftEcology and Evolution
Nummer van het tijdschrift2
StatusPublished - jan-2016

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