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A label of health: a previous immune challenge is reflected in the expression of a female plumage trait.

  • Sveinn Hanssen
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Ivar Folstad
  • Kjell E Erikstad
Publishing year: 2008
Language: English
Pages: 379-381
Publication/Series: Biology letters
Volume: 4
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Studies of ornaments as indicators of individual quality have hitherto focused on males, while studies of female ornaments have been almost absent. However, females within the same species may show large variation in both outer appearance and individual quality. We experimentally examined the effect of an immune challenge on the size of white fringes in the wing feathers produced one to two months after the challenge in female common eiders (Somateria mollissima), a long-lived sea duck. Immune-challenged females produced feathers with smaller white fringes, showing that a previous immune challenge may affect the expression of a plumage trait. We also report an unexpected difference in the expression of this white plumage trait within the immune-challenged group, related to the specific immune response against one of the injected antigens.


  • Biological Sciences
  • female ornament
  • diphtheria
  • tetanus
  • immune challenge


  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1744-9561
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"