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1 August 2012 Variation in Assemblages of Feather Bacteria in Relation to Plumage Color in Female Great Tits
Priit Kilgas, Pauli Saag, Marko Mägi, Meeli Edenberg, Vallo Tilgar, Raivo Mänd
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Abstract

Microorganisms are known to play an important role in shaping the life histories of animals. Recent studies have proposed that the coloration of birds' plumage could reflect individual quality through associations with feather-degrading bacteria. However, few studies have explored such relationships. We studied breeding female Great Tits (Parus major) during nest building and chick rearing to explore associations between bacteria inhabiting their yellow chest feathers and feather coloration. Specifically, we used flow cytometry and ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (RISA), respectively, to study the densities of all free-living and attached bacteria and the phylotypic richness of feather-degrading bacterial assemblages. We used chroma (color saturation) as a measure of feather coloration. During chick rearing but not during nest building, the female's chroma was negatively related to the phylotypic richness of feather-degrading bacteria. Also, a seasonal change in the density of attached bacteria associating with individual birds was negatively associated with change in chroma over the same period. These findings suggest that conspicuous coloration of female Great Tits may reflect the numbers and character of bacteria inhabiting feathers.

©2012 by The Cooper Ornithological Society. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Rights and Permissions website, http://www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp.
Priit Kilgas, Pauli Saag, Marko Mägi, Meeli Edenberg, Vallo Tilgar, and Raivo Mänd "Variation in Assemblages of Feather Bacteria in Relation to Plumage Color in Female Great Tits," The Condor 114(3), 606-611, (1 August 2012). https://doi.org/10.1525/cond.2012.110103
Received: 7 July 2011; Accepted: 15 December 2011; Published: 1 August 2012
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KEYWORDS
carotenoid-based coloration
chroma
feather-degrading bacteria
female coloration
Parus major
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