The Blue-footed Boobies, North Seymour Island, the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.

The Blue-footed Boobies, North Seymour Island, the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.

Male (left) has a smaller pupil and slightly lighter feet and is smaller in size than the female

The blue color of the blue-footed booby’s webbed feet comes from carotenoid pigments obtained from its diet of fresh fish. Carotenoids act as antioxidants and stimulants for the blue-footed booby’s immune function, suggesting that carotenoid-pigmentation is an indicator of an individual’s immunological state. Blue feet also indicate the current health condition of a booby. Boobies that were experimentally food-deprived for forty-eight hours experienced a decrease in foot brightness due to a reduction in the amount of lipids and lipoproteins that are used to absorb and transport carotenoids. Thus, the feet are rapid and honest indicators of a booby’s current level of nourishment.

As blue feet are signals that reliably indicate the immunological and health condition of a booby, coloration is favored through sexual selection.

Posted by ER’s Eyes – Our planet is beautiful.

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