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Mystery Unlocked: Bird Egg Shapes and Flight Ability are co-related, says Study

The analysis revealed that birds tend to lay eggs that are more asymmetric and more elliptical if they are better fliers

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Bird egg
Different shapes of bird eggs. Pixabay
  • Team of researchers has found that the egg shape is related to flight ability
  • The team used photographs to analyze the shapes of nearly 50,000 eggs representing 1,400 species.
  • The egg membrane may also play a critical role in determining the shape

New York, June 24, 2017: In what could perhaps crack the long-term mystery behind the astonishing variety of bird egg shapes, an international team of researchers has found that the egg shape is related to flight ability, with good fliers tending to lay pointy or elliptical eggs.

Avian eggs have fascinated humans for millennia because they come in different shapes — elliptical in hummingbirds, spherical in owls, pointy ovoids in shorebirds and almost everything in between. But we still lack the answer to this simple question — why did different egg shapes evolve, and how?

The new study published in the journal Science suggests that egg shape is related to flight ability, and that the egg membrane may play a critical role in determining shape.

“In contrast to classic hypotheses, we discovered that flight may influence egg shape. Birds that are good fliers tend to lay asymmetric or elliptical eggs,” said the study’s lead author Mary Caswell Stoddard of Princeton University in New Jersey, US.

“In addition, we propose that the stretchy egg membrane, not the hard shell, is responsible for generating the diversity of egg shapes we see in nature,” Caswell said.

To unravel the mystery of egg shape, the researchers used a multi-step, multidisciplinary process, applying tools from computer science, comparative biology, mathematics and biophysics.

First, the team used photographs to analyse the shapes of nearly 50,000 eggs representing 1,400 species.

The eggs, from the online database of The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley, came from across the globe and were largely collected by naturalists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Using computer code, the researchers quantified each egg’s asymmetry and ellipticity.

By combining the power of high-throughput digital image analysis with the wealth of data in the museum egg collection, the team was able to map the world of egg shapes.

The team then developed a biophysical model to explain how processes in the bird’s oviduct might generate different egg shapes.

The team also used an evolutionary framework to test hypotheses about egg shape.

Using a recently constructed phylogeny, or family tree, of birds, the researchers compared egg shapes across different bird lineages. In this analysis, they included details about nest type and location, clutch size, diet and flight ability.

Also Read: Why Birds have Beaks? Researchers discover a Dinosaur Species that shed its “Milk teeth” but did not Replace them 

The analysis revealed that birds tend to lay eggs that are more asymmetric and more elliptical if they are better fliers.

The researchers suggest that as birds’ bodies became adapted for powered flight, this resulted in morphological changes like reduced body size and a reduced abdominal cavity.

The discovery that morphological constraints associated with flight may contribute to egg shape challenges the conventional wisdom that egg shape is largely influenced by clutch size or nest location. (IANS)

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Reason Behind Multicolored Bird Feathers is Unveiled, Find Out Here!

It has previously been discovered that different patterns and colors help camouflage the birds from predators

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Bird feathers
Honeyeater bird. Pixabay

Chicago, Aug 08, 2017: Ever wondered how birds carry multicolored feathers to show off? While some birds are bright in color as one can spot them remotely, some are colored and appear deceiving so much that you’ll never realize if you’re even looking at the bird!

There are more than 18,000 bird species on Earth, and every species is differently colored.  The feathers of the birds are composed of intricate combinations of mottles, scales, bars, and spots, making each one unique and resembling different.

It has previously been discovered that different patterns and colors help camouflage the birds from predators.

A study on about 9000 bird species’ plumage coloration was conducted by Dr. Ismael Galvan and his team of expert researchers to answer the very question: How birds get such different colors?

ALSO READ: Traffic Noise can reduce Birds’ ability to hear an Alarm call, making them Vulnerable to Predators

Two types of pigments are responsible for the plumage coloration: melanins, which produce a range of black, gray, brown, and orange colors and carotenoids, which are used by specialized feather structures to generate brighter color shades.

Melanins are synthesized by in the birds’ bodies in special cells called “melanocytes,” which work together with feather follicles to achieve a fine control of coloration.

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Carotenoids are present in certain food items that circulate through the bloodstream and to the feather follicles when birds consume such food items. The birds cannot produce carotenoids, nor can they exercise direct cellular control of synthesizing and depositing carotenoids. The specialized feather structures react to the consumed carotenoids with a mechanism that is not regulated by specialized cells.

Carotenoids are more commonly examined in the study of bird coloration, however, Dr. Galvan and group are the first to test whether melanins are indeed the only pigmentary element that birds’ bodies directly control on a cellular level.

Galvan says, “Knowing beforehand that different pigments and structures produce different types of colors in feathers, we examined the appearance of the plumage of all species of extant birds and determined if the color patches that they contain are produced by melanins or by other pigmentary elements.”

He further added, “We also identified those plumage patterns that can be considered complex, defining them as those formed by combinations of two or more discernible colors that occur more than two times uninterruptedly through the plumage”, reports ANI.

According to the researchers, 32% of the species examined have complex plumage patterns, with the large majority of these complex patterns produced by melanins rather than carotenoids.

To put simply, carotenoids produce color patches, whereas melanins produce intricate patterns

However, in exceptional cases, unusual colors appear to be produced by their bodies making metabolic alterations to the carotenoid colors that they consume. Some of these are Fruit doves, cotingas and one type of stork have complex plumage patterns without melanins.

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Traffic Noise can reduce Birds’ ability to hear an Alarm call, making them Vulnerable to Predators

Excess noise in the environment from sources such as traffic can have negative effects on animals that rely on sound to communicate and get information about their surroundings

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Excess noise lead to hearing imparement thus birds get vulnerable to predators
Birds: Hearing imparement due to excess noise,pixabay

New York, December 28,2016: Traffic noise can reduce birds’ ability to hear an alarm call, thereby potentially increasing their vulnerability to predators, a new research has found.

“There has been lots of work on how anthropogenic noise affects vocal production, but much less on the response of animals to signals in the presence of noise,” said one of the researchers, Megan Gall, from Vassar College in New York.

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The researchers tested how traffic noise affected the reactions of Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice to alarm calls, which warn birds that a predator is nearby.

Using speakers set up near feeding platforms baited with bird seed, they recorded the birds’ responses to three different recordings — alarm calls alone, traffic noise alone, and a combination of the two.

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The traffic noise did not deter the birds from feeding, but five times as many birds approached speakers when the researchers played alarm calls on their own compared with when traffic sounds were added, according to the study published in the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications.

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The findings suggest that excess noise in the environment from sources such as traffic can have negative effects on animals that rely on sound to communicate and get information about their surroundings. (IANS)

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Death of 15 Birds over last 3 Days in Gandhi Zoological Garden in Gwalior rings Alarm Bells

A majority of the birds who died between Tuesday evening and Thursday evening were migratory painted storks (mycteria leucocephala), mostly found in the Jammu and Kashmir region

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Painted Storks.Flickr

Gwalior, October 21, 2016: The death of 15 birds over the last three days in the local Gandhi Zoological Garden has created panic among the zoo authorities here.

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As a precautionary measure, the management has sealed off the avian wing at the zoo. Viscera samples of the dead birds will be sent for tests.

According to zoo sources, a majority of the birds who died between Tuesday evening and Thursday evening were migratory painted storks (mycteria leucocephala), mostly found in the Jammu and Kashmir region.

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The avian wing staff has been instructed to take special care and use masks before visiting the area.

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Confirming the deaths, zoo doctor Upendra Kumar said on Friday: “Samples of their viscera are being sent for tests. The reason of the deaths can be established only after the reports come in.” (IANS)