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Study points to role of antioxidant balance in bird health and reproduction
Date:2/25/2010

TEMPE Ariz. A balanced diet, exercise and reduced stress not only can lead to a longer life, but also better reproduction, according to a new study by a team of researchers, including one from Arizona State University, on barn swallow nutrition and mating habits.

The study shows that swallows who maintained a positive antioxidant balance over the course of their breeding season were those who produced the most young.

The results of the study are presented in the February 25, 2010 issue of PLoS One, a journal of the Public Library of Science, in the article "Positive carotenoid balance correlates with greater reproductive performance in a wild bird." The study was led by Rebecca Safran, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Colorado in collaboration with Kevin McGraw, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. Co-authors include Colorado doctoral students Matthew Wilkins and Joanna Hubbard, and project volunteer Julie Marling.

Little seems to be easy for the North American barn swallow. The pint-sized bird travels thousands of miles to its nesting grounds and then almost immediately upon arrival engages in its courtship and mating rituals. If successful in these activities, the barn swallows then need to feed, warm and protect their offspring.

While working at a seemingly exhausting pace, it turns out that the strongest of the barn swallows are not only up to the task, but they excel at it. The reason: The leaders of the pack "have a prime 'management system' for antioxidants," said McGraw. "Even after completing the arduous tasks of migration and reproduction, these intense breeders still find themselves carrying a surplus of antioxidants to combat additional challenges."

"Our results indicate these top-of-the-line barn swallows are less stressed and have higher functioning immune systems," added Safran.

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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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