Fecundity and survival in relation to resistance to oxidative stress in a free-living bird

Pierre Bize, Godefroy Devevey, Patricia Monaghan, Blandine Doligez, Phillippe Christe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Citations (Scopus)


Major life history traits, such as fecundity and survival, have been consistently demonstrated to covary positively in nature, some individuals having more resources than others to allocate to all aspects of their life history. Yet, little is known about which resources (or state variables) may account for such covariation. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are natural by-products of metabolism and, when ROS production exceeds antioxidant defenses, organisms are exposed to oxidative stress that can have deleterious effects on their fecundity and survival. Using a wild, long-lived bird, the Alpine Swift (Apus melba), we examined whether individual red cell resistance to oxidative stress covaried with fecundity and survival. We found that males that survived to the next breeding season tended to be more resistant to oxidative stress, and females with higher resistance to oxidative stress laid larger clutches. Furthermore, the eggs of females with low resistance to oxidative stress were less likely to hatch than those of females with high resistance to oxidative stress. By swapping entire clutches at clutch completion, we then demonstrated that hatching failure was related to the production of low-quality eggs by females with low resistance to oxidative stress, rather than to inadequate parental care during incubation. Although male and female resistance to oxidative stress covaried with age, the relationships among oxidative stress, survival, and fecundity occurred independently of chronological age. Overall, our study suggests that oxidative stress may play a significant role in shaping fecundity and survival in the wild. It further suggests that the nature of the covariation between resistance to oxidative stress and life history traits is sex specific, high resistance to oxidative stress covarying primarily with fecundity in females and with survival in males.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2584-2593
Number of pages10
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008


  • alpine swift
  • annual survival
  • antioxidant survival
  • Apus melba
  • fecundity
  • fitness traits
  • life history
  • oxidative theory of aging
  • sex-specific effect


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