I propose to study the importance of estrogens in the control of carotenoid based sexual ornamentation in the common kestrel and in zebra finch.
Since carotenoids participate in maintaining the health status (e.g. immunostimulation and antioxidant activity) it is plausible that there should be a trade-off between the signalling function and other functions useful for the organism (which require the availability of carotenoids in other tissues of the body).
For this reason several important health status parameters will be considered to clarify the possible interaction between estrogens manipulation, health status and carotenoids exhibition.
Specifically, the main objectives of this project are1 to measure the seasonal variation of natural carotenoid and estrogens in wild kestrels and search for a relationship between the two parameters 2 to carry out a controlled study by treating birds with estrogens or their antagonists and measure effects on serum carotenoids and colours. 3 to establish whether estrogen administration or inhibition affect on the birds health status.
Apart from its fundamental interest the study will have practical implications since many xenobiotic compounds (environmental pollutants like e.g. PCBs) can mimic estrogens functions. This is of importance since our study may suggest how the environment pollutants affect the behaviour of birds.
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