Carotenoids in bird testes: Links to body carotenoid supplies, plumage coloration, body mass and testes mass in house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus)

Melissah Rowe, Elizabeth A. Tourville, Kevin McGraw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Carotenoid pigments can be allocated to different parts of the body to serve specific functions. In contrast to other body tissues, studies of carotenoid resources in the testes of animals are relatively scarce. We used high-performance liquid chromatography to determine the types and concentrations of carotenoids in the testes of house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus). Additionally, we examined the relationships between testes carotenoid concentrations and carotenoid pools in other body tissues, as well as body mass, testes mass and plumage coloration. We detected low concentrations of several carotenoids - lutein (the predominant carotenoid), zeaxanthin, anhydrolutein, ß-cryptoxanthin, ß-carotene and an unknown carotene - in the testes of wild house finches. We also found that testes lutein levels were significantly and positively associated with circulating lutein levels, while the concentration of zeaxanthin in testes was positively associated with zeaxanthin levels in liver, though in this instance the relationship was much weaker and only marginally significant. Furthermore, lutein levels in testes were significantly negatively associated with testes mass. Finally, plumage coloration was not associated with either the concentration of carotenoids in the testes or relative testes mass. These results suggest that testes carotenoids are reflective of the pool of circulating carotenoids in house finches, and that plumage coloration is unlikely to signal either the carotenoid content of testes tissue or a male's capacity for sperm production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-291
Number of pages7
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - B Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Carotenoid pigments
  • Lutein
  • Phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis
  • Sexual signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology


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