• Susan Elaine Jones

Relaxing with chickens and paint guns

This week I had one of those light-bulb moments.

Of course, it comes in the middle of relaxing in bed, which can be quite disturbing. But I guess it's better than jumping naked out of the bath and running down the street. (Eureka! A streaker!)

But I was thinking about the extinct great auk (and the lovely understated stuffed one in Norwich Museum) and that the eggs of the great auk were so understudied and precious that records of the patterns of all the known ones are carefully recorded and even available as reproductions!

And somehow my brain cross wired with J A Fairfax Fozzard's X-rays of pregnant(?) chickens and that the egg does a sudden (and probably quite uncomfortable) 180 degree turn just hours before being laid.

What if that is to put the colouring on the shell? What if the chicken has, like, a colour printer head near its butt (cloaca) and the egg spins to put the colours on?

So, dashing to my smart phone (that window to the internet and all knowledge everywhere but most often used to argue with strangers and look at pictures of cats), and found that yes, indeed, that is exactly what happens!

From the website "All about birds":

"In his book, The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg, University of Sheffield zoologist Tim Birkhead compares the pigmentation process to an array of “paint guns.” Each gun is genetically programmed to fire at a certain time so that the signature background color and spotting of a species’ eggs is produced.“Examination of birds’ oviducts at the time the color is placed on the egg suggests that the color is produced and released over a very short time frame,” Birkhead says, “usually in the last few hours before the egg is laid, and that makes it very hard to study.”

And of course, whilst I was on my smartphone, I found a link to a site with pictures of cats, which then offered interesting as fuck information and empathy.

Today's story was that in hard boiled penguin eggs, the "whites" don't go white but cook clear. And taste "a bit fishy".

And look, a lovely discussion follows where strangers exchange useful empathetic information with each other :)

#greatauk #eggcolourings #penguinegg #eggcolouring #JAFairfaxFozzard #bird #egg #shell #paintguns #chickens #relaxing #eureka #lightbulb