Obligate brood parasites have evolved unusually thick-shelled eggs, which are hypothesized to possess a variety of functions such as resistance to puncture ejection by their hosts. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that obligate brood parasites lay unusually thick-shelled eggs to retain more heat for the developing embryo and thus contribute to early hatching of parasite eggs. By doing so, we used an infrared thermal imaging system as a non-invasive method to quantify the temperature of eggshells of common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) and their Oriental reed warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) hosts in an experiment that artificially altered the duration of incubation. Our results showed that cuckoo eggshells had higher temperature than host eggs during incubation, but also less fluctuations in temperature during incubation disturbance. Therefore, there was a thermal and hence a developmental advantage for brood parasitic cuckoos of laying thick-shelled eggs, providing another possible explanation for the unusually thick-shelled eggs of obligate brood parasites and earlier hatching of cuckoo eggs compared to those of the host.
Naturwissenschaften – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 2, 2018
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