Do carotenoid‐based ornaments entail resource trade-offs? An evaluation of theory and data

Rebecca Elizabeth Koch, Geoffrey E Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


1. Within the past several decades, resource trade-offs have emerged as the com-monly accepted explanation for how carotenoid-based coloration links to indi-vidual performance. However, the literature on carotenoid signalling is inconsistent in how carotenoid resource trade-offs are defined, assessed and interpreted.
2. We provide a clear statement of the resource trade-off hypothesis for explaining the honesty of carotenoid-based ornaments, its key assumptions and evidence for (or against) each assumption.
3. Focusing on class Aves, we perform a critical assessment of theoretical and em-pirical evidence for carotenoid resource limitation and for direct physiological benefits of carotenoid pigments to immune and antioxidant performance.
4. We identify important inconsistencies in how data related to physiological func-tion and carotenoid coloration have been interpreted in the light of the resource trade-off hypothesis, and we suggest directions for future research
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1908-1920
Number of pages13
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • antioxidants
  • ornamentation
  • carotenoid pigments
  • coloration

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