Eggshell colour does not predict measures of maternal investment in eggs of Turdus thrushes.

Phillip Cassey, JG Ewen, Timothy Blackburn, ME Hauber, M Vorobyev, NJ Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

66 Citations (Scopus)


The striking diversity of avian eggshell colour has long fascinated biologists. Recently, it has been proposed that the blue-green colour of some eggs may function as a post-mating sexually selected signal of female phenotypic quality to their mates to induce higher allocation of paternal care. It has been suggested that maternally deposited yolk carotenoids may be the specific aspect of reproductive quality that the female is signalling via eggshell colour. We use the known properties of the thrush visual system (Turdus sp.) to calculate photon capture for the four single cone photoreceptors, and the principal member of the double cone class for eggs in clutches of two introduced European thrush species (Turdus merula and Turdus philomelos) in New Zealand. We show that differences in the avian-perceived colours of individual eggs are not consistently correlated with different measures of maternal investment in the egg. Given the growing extent of the knowledge between maternal quality, parental investment and eggshell pigmentation across avian taxa, we encourage the use of avian perceptual modelling for testing alternative non-signalling explanations for the structural and physiological basis of these relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-21
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2008


  • visual perception
  • maternal investment
  • eggshell colour
  • birds
  • new zealand


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