Eggshell permeability: a standard technique for determining interspecific rates of water vapor conductance.

Steven Portugal, G Maurer, Phillip Cassey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Typically, eggshell water vapor conductance is measured on whole eggs, freshly collected at the commencement of a study. At times, however, it may not be possible to obtain whole fresh eggs but rather egg fragments or previously blown eggs. Here we evaluate and describe in detail a technique for modern laboratory analysis of eggshell conductance that uses fragments from fresh and museum eggs to determine eggshell water vapor conductance. We used fresh unincubated eggs of domesticated chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus), ducks (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus), and guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) to investigate the reliability, validity, and repeatability of the technique. To assess the suitability of museum samples, museum and freshly collected black-headed gull eggs (Larus ridibundus) were used. Fragments were cut out of the eggshell from the blunt end (B), equator (E), and pointy end (P). Eggshell fragments were glued to the top of a 0.25-mL micro test tube (Eppendorf) filled with 200 μL of distilled water and placed in a desiccator at 25°C. Eppendorfs were weighed three times at 24-h intervals, and mass loss was assumed to be a result of water evaporation. We report the following results: (1) mass loss between weighing sessions was highly repeatable and consistent in all species; (2) the majority of intraspecific variability in eggshell water vapor conductance between different eggs of the same species was explained through the differences in water vapor conductance between the three eggshell parts of the same egg (B, E, and P); (3) the technique was sensitive enough to detect significant differences between the three domestic species; (4) there was no overall significant difference between water vapor conductance of museum and fresh black-headed gull eggs; (5) there was no significant difference in water vapor conductance for egg fragments taken from the same egg both between different trials and within the same trial. We conclude, therefore, that this technique is an effective way of measuring interspecific water vapor conductance from eggshell fragments and that museum eggs are a suitable resource for such work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1023-31
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010


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