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Dietary carotenoid supplementation facilitates egg laying in a wild passerine

Cite this dataset

García-Campa, Jorge et al. (2021). Dietary carotenoid supplementation facilitates egg laying in a wild passerine [Dataset]. Dryad.


During egg laying, females face a trade-off between self-maintenance and investment into current reproduction, since providing eggs with resources is energetically demanding, in particular if females lay one egg per day. However, the costs of egg laying not only relate to energetic requirements, but also depend on the availability of specific resources that are vital for egg production and embryonic development. One of these compounds are carotenoids, pigments with immuno-stimulatory properties, which are crucial during embryonic development. In this study, we explore how carotenoid availability alleviates this trade-off and facilitates egg laying in a small bird species, the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus). Blue tits have among the largest clutch size of all European passerines and they usually lay one egg per day, although laying interruptions are frequent. We performed a lutein supplementation experiment, and measured potential consequences for egg laying capacity and egg quality. We found that lutein-supplemented females had less laying interruptions and thus completed their clutch faster than control females. No effects of treatment were found on the onset of egg laying or clutch size. Experimentally enhanced carotenoid availability did not elevate yolk carotenoid levels or egg mass, but negatively affected eggshell thickness. Our results provide hence evidence on the limiting role of carotenoids during egg laying. However, the benefits of laying faster following lutein supplementation were counterbalanced by a lower accumulation of calcium in the eggshell. Thus, even though single components may constrain egg laying, it is the combined availability of a range of different resources which ultimately determines egg quality and thus embryonic development.