Nest substrate and tool shape significantly affect the mechanics and energy requirements of avian eggshell puncture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some host species of avian obligate brood parasites reject parasitic eggs from their nest whereas others accept them, even though they recognize them as foreign. One hypothesis to explain this seemingly maladaptive behavior is that acceptors are unable to pierce and remove the parasitic eggshell. Previous studies reporting on the force and energy required to break brood parasites' eggshells were typically static tests performed against hard substrate surfaces. Here, we considered host nest as a substrate to simulate this potentially critical aspect of the natural context for egg puncture while testing the energy required to break avian eggshells. Specifically, as a proof of concept, we punctured domestic chicken eggs under a series of conditions: varying tool shape (sharp versus blunt), tool dynamics (static versus dynamic) and the presence of natural bird nests (of three host species). The results show a complex set of statistically significant interactions between tool shapes, puncture dynamics and nest substrates. Specifically, the energy required to break eggs was greater for the static tests than for the dynamic tests, but only when using a nest substrate and a blunt tool. In turn, in the static tests, the addition of a nest significantly increased energy requirements for both tool types, whereas during dynamic tests, the increase in energy associated with the nest presence was significant only when using the sharp tool. Characterizing the process of eggshell puncture in increasingly naturalistic contexts will help in understanding whether and how hosts of brood parasites evolve to reject foreign eggs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number239723
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2021


  • energetics
  • Nest
  • Puncture
  • Eggshell
  • Peck
  • Egg
  • Energetics
  • Impact
  • Dynamic fracture
  • Obligate brood parasite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Nest substrate and tool shape significantly affect the mechanics and energy requirements of avian eggshell puncture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this