Maternal androgens in black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) eggs: consequences for chick development.
ABSTRACT: We tested the hypothesis that mother birds counterbalance the negative effects of hatching asynchrony for later-hatched chicks by increasing the yolk androgen concentrations in consecutive eggs of their clutch. In doing so, they may adaptively tune each offspring's competitive ability and, thus, growth and survival. However, evidence in support of this hypothesis is contradictory. The yolk concentrations of maternal androgens in the eggs of black-headed gulls increase significantly with the laying order of the eggs in a clutch. We experimentally tested the functional consequences of this increase on chick development under natural conditions by injecting eggs with either an oil or androgen solution. We created experimental clutches in which androgen levels either stayed constant or increased with laying order while controlling for differences in egg quality by using only first-laid eggs. We then compared development, growth and survival between these broods. Androgen treatment enhanced embryonic development because androgen-treated eggs hatched half a day earlier than controls, while their size at hatching was similar to oil-treated controls. Androgen treatment did not increase chick survival, but it enhanced growth. Androgen-treated, third-hatched chicks had a higher body mass and longer legs than third-hatched chicks that hatched from oil-treated eggs. At the same time, growth of first chicks (which were all oil treated) was reduced by the presence of two androgen-treated siblings, suggesting that yolk androgens enhance the competitive ability of later-hatched chicks. Our results support the hypothesis that transfer of different amounts of androgens to the eggs of a clutch is a mechanism by which mothers maximize their reproductive output.
Project description:Exposure of yolk androgens can positively stimulate chick growth and competitive ability, but may negatively affect immunity. It has been hypothesized that only chicks from immunologically superior fathers can bear the cost of prenatal exposure to high androgen levels. To test this hypothesis, we paired roosters from two selection lines, one up- and one down-selected for natural antibodies (NAbs), with hens from a control line. We measured yolk testosterone and androstenedione levels, and we injected the treatment group of eggs of each female with testosterone suspended in sesame oil and the control group with sesame oil only. We then measured hatching success and growth, and characterized the humoral and cellular immune responses using three different challenges: a phyto-hemagglutinin, a lipopolysaccharide and a sheep red blood cell challenge. We found that the hatching success, body mass, initial levels of natural antibodies and the chicks' immunological responses to the three different challenges and development were affected neither by paternal immunocompetence nor by treatment. These results do not support the hypothesis that chicks from low-NAb line fathers are more sensitive to testosterone exposure during embryonic development than chicks from high-NAb line fathers.
Project description:The increase or decrease in yolk androgens over the laying sequence of a clutch in birds may mitigate or enhance, respectively, the disadvantage of the last-hatched chicks, providing a potentially adaptive tool to adjust brood size to food conditions. This variation may involve a genetic component on which Darwinian selection can act. We found that two lines of a wild bird species selected for bold and shy personalities show, respectively, increased and decreased androgen concentrations over the laying sequence. The line showing the increase laid earlier in the season, when food conditions are normally sufficient to raise the whole brood. The line showing the decrease laid later, when food is normally scarce, which may facilitate brood reduction. The results indicate a correlated response in maternal hormone transfer to genetic selection on personality, which relates to ecological conditions.
Project description:This study was conducted to investigate the effects of broiler breeder dietary vitamin E and egg storage time on the egg characteristics, hatchability, and antioxidant status of the egg yolks and newly hatched chicks. A total of 512 71-week-old Ross 308 breeder hens were fed the same basic diets containing 6 or 100 mg/kg vitamin E for 12 weeks. During this time, a total of 1532, 1464, and 1316 eggs were independently collected at weeks 8, 10, and 12, respectively, and subsequently stored for 0 or 14 d before hatching. The outcomes from three trials showed that prolonged egg storage time (14 vs. 0 d) negatively affected (p < 0.05) the egg characteristics, hatchability traits, and the yolk total antioxidant capacity (T-AOC) (p < 0.05). Chicks derived from the stored eggs exhibited higher malonaldehyde (MDA) and T-AOC in the serum and yolk sac (p < 0.05). Broiler breeder dietary vitamin E (100 vs. 6 mg/kg) increased (p < 0.05) the hatchability and the antioxidant status of the yolks as indicated by a higher ?-tocopherol content and T-AOC and lower MDA level (p < 0.05). The supplementation of vitamin E also remarkably increased (p < 0.05) the total superoxide dismutase (T-SOD) activity (yolk sac, weeks 8 and 12) and T-AOC (serum, weeks 8, 10, and 12; yolk sac, weeks 8 and 12) and decreased (p < 0.05) the MDA content of chicks (yolk sac, week 10; serum, week 12). Interactions (p < 0.05) were found between the broiler breeder dietary vitamin E and egg storage time on the hatchability and antioxidant status of chick tissues. Broiler breeder dietary vitamin E (100 vs. 6 mg/kg) increased (p < 0.05) the hatchability and the T-AOC in the serum and liver of chicks, and decreased (p < 0.05) the early embryonic mortality and the MDA content in the yolk sacs of chicks derived from eggs stored for 14 d but not for 0 d. In conclusion, prolonged egg storage time (14 vs. 0 d) increased the embryonic mortality, decreased the hatchability, and impaired the antioxidant status of egg yolks and newly hatched chicks, while the addition of broiler breeder dietary vitamin E (100 vs. 6 mg/kg) could partly relieve these adverse impacts induced by long-term egg storage.
Project description:Terrestrial eggs have evolved repeatedly in tropical anurans exposing embryos to the new threat of dehydration. Red-eyed treefrogs, Agalychnis callidryas, lay eggs on plants over water. Maternally provided water allows shaded eggs in humid sites to develop to hatching without rainfall, but unshaded eggs and those in less humid sites can die from dehydration. Hatching responses of amphibian eggs to dry conditions are known from two lineages with independent origins of terrestrial eggs. Here, we experimentally tested for dehydration-induced early hatching in another lineage (Agalychnis callidryas, Phyllomedusidae), representing a third independent origin of terrestrial eggs. We also investigated how dehydration affected egg and clutch structure, and egg mortality. We collected clutches from a pond in Gamboa, Panama, and randomly allocated them to wet or dry treatments at age 1 day. Embryos hatched earlier from dry clutches than from wet clutches, accelerating hatching by ?11%. Clutch thickness and egg diameter were affected by dehydration, diverging between treatments over time. Meanwhile, mortality in dry clutches was six-fold higher than in control clutches. With this study, early hatching responses to escape mortality from egg dehydration are now known from three anuran lineages with independent origins of terrestrial eggs, suggesting they may be widespread. Further studies are needed to understand how terrestrial amphibian eggs can respond to, or will be affected by, rapid changes in climate over the next decades.
Project description:Broiler chicks usually hatch in the hatchery without access to feed and water until placement at the farm. This can affect their health and welfare negatively. Therefore, alternative strategies have been developed, for instance providing chicks with early nutrition in the hatchery or hatching eggs directly on-farm. However, information on the physical and mental welfare of chicks hatched in these systems compared to conventionally hatched chicks is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of alternative hatching systems on the welfare of broiler chickens in early and later life. A system comparison was performed with chickens that hatched conventionally in a hatchery (HH), in a system which provided light, feed, and water in a hatcher (hatchery-fed, HF), or on-farm (on-farm hatched, OH, where feed and water were available and transport of day-old chicks from the hatchery to the farm was not necessary). Chickens were reared in 3 batches, in 12 floor pens per batch (approximately 1,155 animals per pen), with a total of 12 replicates per treatment. Animal-based welfare indicators were assessed following standard protocols: plumage cleanliness, footpad dermatitis (FPD), hock burn, skin lesions (all at day 21 and 35 of age), and gait score (day 35). Furthermore, a set of behavioral tests was carried out: novel environment (day 1 and 21), tonic immobility, novel object, and avoidance distance test (day 4 and 35). Plumage cleanliness, hock burn, and skin lesions were affected by age but not by hatching system, with older broilers scoring worse than younger ones (P < 0.05). An effect of hatching system was only found for FPD, with the highest prevalence in HH chickens, followed by HF and OH chickens (P < 0.05). All responses measured in the behavioral tests were affected by age but not by hatching system. In later life, chickens were significantly less fearful than during the first days of life. The results indicate that conventionally hatched chickens scored significantly worse for FPD, whereas, in general, hatching system seemed to have minor effects on other broiler welfare indicators.
Project description:Every year, billions of egg layer chicks around the world are hatched under highly stressful, industrial circumstances. Here, it is investigated how the stressful procedure in the commercial hatchery, including incubation, hatching, processing, and transport affects the chicks with regards to traits relevant for the egg production industry. These traits were compared to those of a control group hatched in a small incubator and handled gently och quietly in a quiet room without any processing and transport. The chicks were weighed at hatch and at eight additional time points: 4 days, 1 week (w), 2 w, 3 w, 5 w, 8 w, 20 w and 25 w of age. Feather pecking was studied at 15 w of age and damages to the feathers and injuries on the comb and wattle were assessed at 25 w of age. From 19 w of age, eggs were collected on three days per week, counted and weighed. Chicks from a commercial hatchery had a lower hatch weight than control chicks (p<0.001). At 20 w of age, the weight of the commercial hatched chicks was still numerically lower, although this did not reach statistical significance. Commercially hatched chicks tended to show more feather pecking behaviour at 15 w of age compared to control chicks (p<0.1), although feather condition at 25 w of age showed the opposite pattern. Regarding production, commercially hatched chickens laid fewer (p<0.05) and smaller (p<0.05) eggs than chicks hatched and handled under calm circumstances. From this experiment, it is concluded that the stressful experience in the commercial hatchery has an overall negative effect on traits relevant for the industry.
Project description:The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) population is estimated at 25,000 breeding pairs, approximately 5% of that at the start of the 20th century, and the species is currently classified as Endangered. In the last two decades, the hand-rearing of penguin chicks that were abandoned by their parents due to oil spills or other circumstances has become a valuable conservation tool to limit mortality and to bolster the population at specific colonies. We summarize and evaluate the techniques employed by the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to incubate and hand-rear African penguin eggs and chicks. From 2012 to 2016, a total of 694 eggs and 2819 chicks were received by SANCCOB's Chick Rearing Unit. It was estimated that 13% of the eggs were infertile, and 81% of the fertile eggs hatched successfully. The overall release rate for chicks was 77%, with a higher release rate for chicks that were pre-emptively removed (93%) followed by chicks that had been abandoned by their parents (78%), chicks admitted due to avian pox lesions (61%), chicks that hatched from artificially-incubated eggs (57%), and chicks admitted due to injuries or deformities (25%). Rescuing and hand-rearing eggs and chicks has been a successful strategy for African penguins, and might be also applicable for the conservation of other threatened seabird species whose population are critically low or during natural or anthropogenic events that could have disastrous population impacts (e.g. oil spills, disease outbreaks, catastrophic weather events, strong El Niño years, etc.).
Project description:In this work, the growth of fertilized Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) eggs was monitored in vivo at the molecular level using near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy and NIR imaging. NIR spectra were recorded noninvasively for three major parts of a fertilized medaka egg, the embryonic body, the oil droplets, and the yolk, from the first day after fertilization to the day before hatching. Principal component analysis (PCA) revealed that water, protein, and lipid contents in the egg yolk and oil droplets changed significantly just before hatching. The ratio of the characteristic peaks due to proteins and lipids in the second derivative spectra suggested that the relative concentration of proteins to lipids was constant in the egg yolk, while it dramatically increased just before hatching in the oil droplets. Furthermore, linear discriminant analysis (LDA) predicted the hatching possibility on the next day with 100% and 99.3% accuracy for yolk and oil droplets data, respectively. Two types of NIR images were developed in situ using the band intensities of the lipids and proteins in the second derivative spectra. The egg's protein and lipid content was successfully visualized noninvasively. This technique should enable noninvasive quality testing of fertilized eggs in the future.
Project description:Avian mothers can potentially alter the phenotypes of their offspring by varying the concentration of steroid hormones in their eggs. We explored variation in androstenedione (A4), testosterone (T), 5?-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), 17?-estradiol (E2), and corticosterone (CORT) in the yolks of 12 free-living great tit Parus major clutches. We analyzed variation and covariation in greater detail than previous studies, using models for variation with laying sequence that take into account variable clutch size and comparing correlations between pairs of hormones at the within- and between-clutch levels. We also investigated relationships between hormone levels and various environmental, life history, and parental traits. For three of the five steroids, we found no significant correlates, but based on individual statistical tests (a) DHT varied between clutches with male age (1 year old vs older); (b) DHT and CORT were negatively correlated within clutches with the average temperature on the day (DHT and CORT) or 3 days (DHT only) preceding laying; and (c) DHT in the last egg of the clutch relative to the clutch mean was positively correlated with the interval between clutch completion and the onset of incubation (incubation delay). Relationships with ambient temperature and incubation delay have not previously been reported for any yolk hormone in birds. Intriguingly, the three relationships for DHT are consistent with more DHT being transferred to eggs in situations that could be more energetically challenging for the female. More research is needed to determine the generality of the patterns we found and to understand their functional significance.The yolks of birds' eggs contain steroid hormones produced by the mother which can affect the development and behavior of the resultant chicks. We analyzed five steroid hormones in the yolks of wild great tits and show for the first time that yolk hormone levels are related to ambient temperature in the day(s) just before laying and, in the last-laid egg, with the day it is laid relative to the onset of incubation, and that the concentrations of pairs of yolk hormones can vary with each other in a different way between and within clutches. These results contribute insights into the ways in which yolk hormones may adaptively modify the chicks or may reflect physiological processes occurring in the mother.
Project description:Communication is central to life at all levels of complexity, from cells to organs, through to organisms and communities. Turtle eggs were recently shown to communicate with each other in order to synchronise their development and generate beneficial hatching synchrony. Yet the mechanism underlying embryo to embryo communication remains unknown. Here we show that within a clutch, developing snake embryos use heart beats emanating from neighbouring eggs as a clue for their metabolic level, in order to synchronise development and ultimately hatching. Eggs of the water snake Natrix maura increased heart rates and hatched earlier than control eggs in response to being incubated in physical contact with more advanced eggs. The former produced shorter and slower swimming young than their control siblings. Our results suggest potential fitness consequences of embryo to embryo communication and describe a novel driver for the evolution of egg-clustering behaviour in animals.