Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Exceptional variation in the appearance of Common Murre eggs reveals their potential as identity signals

Citation

Montgomerie, Robert; Birkhead, Tim; Cox, Amelia; Thompson, Jamie (2022), Exceptional variation in the appearance of Common Murre eggs reveals their potential as identity signals, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0vt4b8h0f

Abstract

We studied the ground colors and maculations of 161 Common Murre (Uria aalge) eggs laid by 43 females in 3 small breeding groups on the cliffs of Skomer Island, Wales, in 2016–2018. Both the colors and maculations varied much more among than within females, providing quantitative evidence for the egg traits that might facilitate the parents’ ability to identify their own eggs on the crowded breeding ledges where the density is typically ~20 eggs m–2. Ground colors had a trimodal distribution of hue values (whitish to pale brown, pale blue, or vivid blue-green) and maculations ranged from none to complex squiggles and blotches. The eggs laid by each female in different years were similar to one another, and replacement eggs laid by females within years were also more similar to their first egg than to other eggs in the same breeding group. Egg appearance did not differ among the 3 breeding groups that we studied. Our findings thus support anecdotal observations that, within and between years, female Common Murres lay eggs that have similar ground colors and maculations. We do not, however, find evidence that there is much difference among the eggs laid in different parts of a colony.

Methods

Photographs of eggs under standardized conditions in the field. Analyzed colors and some simple maculation metrics from digital photographs.

Usage Notes

See README file.

Funding

Leverhulme Trust, Award: RPG-2015-221

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Award: RGPIN/05711-2014