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The Shapes of Birds' Eggs: Evolutionary Constraints and Adaptations.

Authors
  • Montgomerie, Robert
  • Hemmings, Nicola
  • Thompson, Jamie E
  • Birkhead, Tim R
Type
Published Article
Journal
The American Naturalist
Publisher
The University of Chicago Press
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2021
Volume
198
Issue
6
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1086/716928
PMID: 34762571
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

AbstractWe studied the shapes of eggs from 955 extant bird species across the avian phylogeny, including 39 of 40 orders and 78% of 249 families. We show that the elongation component of egg shape (length relative to width) is largely the result of constraints imposed by the female's anatomy during egg formation, whereas asymmetry (pointedness) is mainly an adaptation to conditions during the incubation period. Thus, egg elongation is associated with the size of the egg in relation to both the size of the female's oviduct and her general body conformation and mode of locomotion correlated with pelvis shape. Egg asymmetry is related mainly to clutch size and the structure of the incubation site, factors that influence thermal efficiency during incubation and the risk of breakage. Importantly, general patterns across the avian phylogeny do not always reflect the trends within lower taxonomic levels. We argue that the analysis of avian egg shape is most profitably conducted within taxa where all species share similar life histories and ecologies, as there is no single factor that influences egg shape in the same way in all bird species.

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