Parent-Egg Interactions: Egg Temperature and Water Loss

  • Ralph A. Ackerman
  • Richard C. Seagrave


The avian egg is encased in a hard, calcareous shell and deposited outside the body of the parent. The embryo develops and grows, separated by the shell from the ambient atmosphere surrounding the egg. The chief role of the parent appears to be to attend the egg, moderating and modifying the thermal environment around the egg and controlling the energy exchanged between the egg and surroundings. Control may be exercised in several ways. Eggs are typically deposited during the most appropriate season. The micro-climate of the egg may be influenced by the selection of an appropriate site for egg deposition or by the construction of a nest which acts to separate the egg or some part of it physically from the surroundings. Finally, most birds intervene directly in the process of egg energy exchange by applying a specialized area of skin, the brood patch, to the surface of the egg. Since adult birds maintain body temperatures constant at 38–41 °C and brood patch temperatures are slightly cooler than this (Drent, 1970), energy may be transferred to the egg when the egg is losing heat to the surroundings and absorbed from the egg when the egg is gaining heat from the surroundings.


Water Loss Substrate Temperature Nest Temperature Brood Patch Water Vapor Exchange 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph A. Ackerman
    • 1
  • Richard C. Seagrave
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Zoology and Chemical EngineeringIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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