As urban areas expand rapidly worldwide, wildlife is exposed to a wide range of novel environmental stressors, such as increased air pollution and artificial light at night. Birds in highly polluted and/or urbanized habitats have been found to have increased antioxidant protection, which is likely important to avoid accumulation of oxidative damage, which can have negative fitness consequences. Yet, the current knowledge about the ontogeny of antioxidant protection in urban areas is limited; i.e., is the capacity to up-regulate the antioxidant defences already established during pre-natal development, or does it manifest itself during post-natal development? We cross-fostered great tit (Parus major) nestlings within and between urban and rural habitats, to determine if oxidative stress (measured as non-enzymatic total antioxidant capacity, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and plasma lipid peroxidation) is affected by habitat of origin and/or by habitat of rearing. The results demonstrate that being reared in the urban environment triggers an increase in SOD (an intracellular, enzymatic antioxidant) independent of natal habitat. Oxidative damage increased with hatching date in urban-reared nestlings, but there was little seasonal change in rural-reared nestlings. Total antioxidant capacity was neither affected by habitat of rearing or habitat of origin, but we observed a decline with hatching date in both rearing habitats. Taken together, our results support the growing evidence that the urban environment induces a direct plastic adjustment in antioxidant protection, but that up-regulation is not sufficient to avoid increased oxidative damage in late-hatched broods. Future studies should explore the underlying causes for this effect in late-hatched broods and whether it has any negative long-term implications, both at the individual- and the population level.
- great tit
- parus major