Female zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) are chronically but not cumulatively "anemic" during repeated egg laying in response to experimental nest predation
Willie, J.; Travers, M.; Williams, T.D.
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology Pbz 83(1): 119-126
ISSN/ISBN: 1537-5293 PMID: 19911962 DOI: 10.1086/605478
Recently it has been recognized that reproduction itself, or the regulatory processes controlling reproduction, might contribute to physiological costs of reproduction. Reproductive anemia, a decrease in hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration, might provide one such mechanism underlying the costs of egg production in birds. In this study, we investigated the effect of repeated cycles of egg production in response to experimental nest predation (egg removal) on hematological traits in female zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). We predicted that if the negative effect of egg production on hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration was cumulative, with anemia being proportional to reproductive effort, then females laying more clutches, or laying successive clutches without recovery during incubation, would show greater reproductive anemia. In contrast, if females maintain hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration at some minimum functional level independent of reproductive effort, then there should be no difference in hematological traits among females laying two or more successive clutches. Our results supported the second of these hypotheses: egg-laying females had reduced hematocrit (-7.5%) and hemoglobin concentrations (-10%), but the extent of reproductive anemia did not differ among females laying either two or three successive clutches, with or without recovery during incubation, or in females laying 7-21 eggs. Females maintained low hematocrit and hemoglobin for 20-35 d, and we suggest that prolonged periods of anemia might be common and functionally important in free-living birds, for example, where females produce multiple successive clutches in response to high levels of nest predation or where they initiate a second clutch while still rearing first brood chicks.