The effect of developmental stage on eggshell thickness variation in endangered falcons
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Zoology : analysis of complex systems
, p. 184-188
University of Antwerp
We compared eggshell thickness of hatched eggs with that of non-developed eggs in endangered falcon taxa to explore the effect of embryo development on eggshell thinning. To our knowledge, this has never been examined before in falcons, despite the fact that eggshell thinning due to pollutants and environmental contamination is often considered the most common cause of egg failure in falcons. Because of the endangered nature of these birds, and the difficulty in gaining access to the nests and their eggs, there is a large gap in our knowledge regarding eggshell thickness variation and the factors affecting it. We used a linear mixed-effects (LME) model to explore the variation in eggshell thickness (n = 335 eggs) in relation to the developmental stage of the eggs, but also in relation to the falcon taxa, the laying sequence and the study zone. Female identity (n = 69) and clutch identity (n = 98) were also included in the LME model. Our results are consistent with the prediction that eggshell thickness decreases during incubation because of the important effect of calcium uptake by the embryo during development. Our results also show that eggs laid later in the sequence had significantly thinner eggshells. In this study, we provide the first quantitative data on eggshell thickness variation of hatched eggs in different falcon taxa that were not subjected to contamination or food limitation (i.e., bred under captive conditions). Because eggshell thickness strongly influences survival and because the species examined in this study are endangered, our data represent a valuable control for future studies on the effects of pollution on eggshells from wild populations and thus are an important contribution to the conservation of falcons.