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Why Are Birds' Eggs Speckled?

Date:
September 7, 2005
Source:
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Summary:
Most perching birds lay eggs speckled with reddish protoporphyrin spots toward the egg's blunt end. Evidence in a paper by Gosler, Higham & Reynolds soon to appear in Ecology Letters suggests that rather than giving a visual signal, protoporphyrins strengthen the eggshell by compensating for reduced eggshell-thickness caused by calcium deficiency. Pigment spots on great tit eggs specifically marked thinner areas of shell, and females nesting on low-calcium soils, laid thinner-shelled, more-spotted eggs.

Birds' eggs are unique in their diverse pigmentation. This diversity isgreatest amongst perching birds (order Passeriformes: 60% of all birdspecies), which include many familiar species including tits andwarblers. Despite intense interest, the purpose, in most species, ofthese patterns was unknown.

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Most passerines lay eggs speckled with reddish protoporphyrin spotsforming a ring around the egg's blunt end, on an otherwise unpigmentedshell. Evidence in a paper by Gosler, Higham & Reynolds soon toappear in Ecology Letters now suggests that rather than giving a visualsignal, protoporphyrins strengthen the eggshell by compensating forreduced eggshell-thickness caused by calcium deficiency.

Pigmentspots on great tit eggs specifically marked thinner areas of shell,with darker spots marking yet thinner shell than paler spots, andfemales nesting on low-calcium soils, laid thinner-shelled,more-spotted eggs than those on high-calcium soils nearby. Pigmentationmay offer a way to assess eggshell quality.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Why Are Birds' Eggs Speckled?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050907095627.htm>.
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. (2005, September 7). Why Are Birds' Eggs Speckled?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050907095627.htm
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Why Are Birds' Eggs Speckled?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050907095627.htm (accessed March 27, 2015).

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