Researchers fashion swan egg into sensor to monitor hatching process

Aug 15, 2012 by Bob Yirka weblog
swan egg
Image: Flickr

(Phys.org) -- Researchers in Britain are confused by the mute swans of Abbotsbury Swannery. They lay four to ten eggs during a laying cycle which lasts generally a couple of days. During that time, they sometimes sit on the eggs laid up to that point, but not long enough to cause the eggs to begin incubation; that doesn’t start until all of the eggs have been laid. So why do they bother at all beforehand? It seems like a waste of energy, which birds as a general rule, tend to avoid. That’s what this new research aims to find out. The group have taken a real egg, sawed off one end and fitted it inside with electronics embedded in rubbery silicon.

The electronics consist of an accelerometer to measure movement, a radio signal generator, a thermometer to find out just how much heat the birds are offering to the eggs both before all are laid and after and a chip to do all the conversions. The end product is good enough to fool the swans and thereby give the researchers a way to measure what goes on with the egg, something that could not be done any other way. The egg sends data to a remote computer eight times a second, where the information is analyzed and stored.

The swannery in Abbotsbury has hosted swans, scientists believe, for over a thousand years and is unique in that it’s the only mute swan colony that is managed by humans. It’s also a tourist attraction. Because of that, the swans are used to people and don’t grow flustered and leave when they come around. The colony typically supports over 600 swans of which generally just a hundred and fifty are part of mutual pairings. Nesting swans are generally quite territorial leading to nests that are rather far apart. In Abbotsbury, that’s not possible, so the birds sometimes lose track of young as they wander into the nests of others nearby. Back in the 1500’s the were eaten at special events by monks from the Benedictine monastery at St. Peter's.

In addition to figuring out why the birds roost before laying all their , the researchers hope to learn more about the process by which cygnets hatch in general.

Explore further: Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

More information:
via BBC

Related Stories

Britain sees explosion in swan population

Jan 01, 2007

Conservationists in Britain are reporting an exponential increase in the population of swans, which are currently under protection by the Royal Charter.

Four US swans die from bird flu virus

Feb 02, 2012

Four swans found dead in Massachusetts had the bird flu virus, authorities said Wednesday, stressing that the strain was not dangerous to humans.

'Alien' eggs benefit mockingbirds

Dec 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mockingbirds rarely remove the ‘alien’ eggs parasitic cowbirds lay in their nests because keeping them dilutes the risk of their own eggs being attacked.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

5 hours ago

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

22 hours ago

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dschlink
5 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2012
Eggs, none the less, are alive. I suspect the swans maintain the eggs in a specific temperature range. Low enough to prevent incubation and high enough to maintain viability.

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...