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Magellanic Penguin eggshell pores: does number matter?

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Most penguin species lay two eggs 3–4 days apart that hatch 1–2 days apart. Hypotheses to explain the shorter incubation period for the second egg include differences in porosity of the eggshells. Eggs with more or larger pores and/or thinner shells have higher gas exchange rates and faster embryonic development. We used eggshells from hatchling Magellanic Penguins Spheniscus magellanicus to test whether eggshell thickness and pore density affect incubation period. We expected: (i) second eggs to have thinner shells and/or more pores than first eggs; (ii) eggs to have thinner shells and/or more pores if they were laid by older females, later in the season, or in burrow nests (more humid than open nests under bushes). We found no support for these hypotheses. Egg pores and shell thickness were not related to incubation period. Eggs from the same clutch were similar in eggshell thickness and pore density. Female age, laying date and nest type were poor predictors of eggshell thickness and pore density. Egg pores, we conclude, have little explanatory power for differences in incubation time of eggs in Magellanic Penguins, and suggest that synchronous onset of incubation matters.
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Keywords: Spheniscus magellanicus; eggshell thickness; incubation period; pore density

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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