Maternally invested carotenoids compensate costly ectoparasitism in the hihi

JG Ewen, R Thorogood, P Brekke, Phillip Cassey, F Karadas, DP Armstrong

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Dietary ingested carotenoid biomolecules have been linked to both improved health and immunity in nestling birds. Here, we test whether maternally invested egg carotenoids can offset the cost of parasitism in developing nestling hihi (Notiomystis cincta) from the bloodsucking mite (Ornithonyssus bursa). Our results reveal clear negative effects of parasitism on nestlings, and that maternally derived carotenoids compensate this cost, resulting in growth parameters and ultimate mass achieved being similar to nonparasitized young. Our results offer an unique example of a direct positive relationship between enhanced maternal investment of carotenoids and an ability to cope with a specific and costly parasite in young birds. As O. bursa infestations reduce population viability in hihi, our findings also highlight the importance of key nutritional resources for endangered bird populations to better cope with common parasite infestations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12798-12802
Number of pages5
JournalNational Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
Issue number31
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009


  • parasites
  • maternal effects
  • stitchbird
  • life history


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