Skip to main content

Data from: Effect of composition on shape of bird eggs

Cite this dataset

Deeming, D. Charles (2017). Data from: Effect of composition on shape of bird eggs [Dataset]. Dryad.


Numerous studies over the past 90 years have described the various bird egg shapes in mathematical terms but few studies have considered the underlying reasons for such interspecific egg shape variability. This study investigated how the size and composition, i.e. proportions of shell, yolk and albumen, were associated with egg shape. Geometric morphometrics were used to generate principal components, which were analysed in relation to taxonomy (i.e. avian order) and degree of neonatal developmental maturity, which correlates with egg composition. The analysis confirmed previous results that most of the variation in shape is associated with degree of elongation (i.e. length divided by breadth) and asymmetry (i.e. position of the broadest part of the egg away from the mid-point of the egg's length). Egg shape reflected avian order but not developmental maturity. The degree of elongation of an egg is related to absolute egg mass and the proportion of yolk. By contrast, the degree of asymmetry is related to the proportion of shell and the mass of the egg relative to female body mass. Although significant, the models explained little of the variation in egg shape and so it was concluded that other factors, such as pelvis size and shape, could be more important in determining egg shape in birds.

Usage notes