Maternal influence on eggshell maculation: implications for cryptic camouflaged eggs.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Camille Duval
  • Ivan Miksik
  • Karen Spencer

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (ASCR)
  • University of St Andrews


Egg camouflage may explain the adaptive significance of avian eggshell pigmentation in ground-nesting species. Eggshell maculation (spots) is predominantly due to protoporphyrin, but both biliverdin (antioxidant) and protoporphyrin (pro-oxidant) may be present in spotted eggshells. Because of their role in oxidative stress, the deposition of eggshell pigments might be condition-dependent. However, because of the fitness benefits of eggshell coloration, cryptic eggshell appearance should be strongly conserved in ground-nesting species regardless of female condition and eggshell pigment concentrations. We investigated whether Japanese quails (Coturnix coturnix japonica) maintained eggshell maculation under food restriction. We quantified eggshell maculation (i.e., percentage of spot coverage) using digital photography, and both protoporphyrin and biliverdin concentrations of eggs laid by females either on a food-restricted or an ad libitum diet. Females on a high quality diet, which are known to decrease the deposition of eggshell protoporphyrin, decreased eggshell maculation compared with food-restricted females that maintained it. For the first time, we propose an experimental study which suggests that eggshell maculation depends on female body condition and that manipulating eggshell maculation may be the strategy used by females to potentially optimize egg camouflage.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-310
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016