Avian egg odour encodes information on embryo sex, fertility and development

Webster, Ben and Hayes, William and Pike, Thomas W. (2015) Avian egg odour encodes information on embryo sex, fertility and development. PLoS ONE, 10 (1). ISSN 1932-6203

Full content URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.137...

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Abstract

Avian chemical communication is a rapidly emerging field, but has been hampered by a critical lack of information on volatile chemicals that communicate ecologically relevant information (semiochemicals). A possible, but as yet unexplored, function of olfaction and chemical communication in birds is in parent-embryo and embryo-embryo communication. Communication between parents and developing embryos may act to mediate parental behaviour, while communication between embryos can control the synchronicity of hatching. Embryonic vocalisations and vibrations have been implicated as a means of communication during the later stages of development but in the early stages, before embryos are capable of independent movement and vocalisation, this is not possible. Here we show that volatiles emitted from developing eggs of Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) convey information on egg fertility, along with the sex and developmental status of the embryo. Specifically, egg volatiles changed over the course of incubation, differed between fertile and infertile eggs, and were predictive of embryo sex as early as day 1 of incubation. Egg odours therefore have the potential to facilitate parent-embryo and embryo-embryo interactions by allowing the assessment of key measures of embryonic development long before this is possible through other modalities. It also opens up the intriguing possibility that parents may be able to glean further relevant information from egg volatiles, such as the health, viability and heritage of embryos. By determining information conveyed by egg-derived volatiles, we hope to stimulate further investigation into the ecological role of egg odours.

Additional Information:Article number e0116345
Keywords:1,3 diacetylbenzene, 1,3 diphenyl propane, 2 (2ethoxyethoxy)ethanol, 2 decanone, 2 ethyl 1 hexano, 2 isopropylphenol, 2 nonanone, 2 undecanone, 5 isopropenyl 1 methyl 1 cyclohexene, acetophenone, benzaldehyde, benzothiazole, butanol, dimethyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, heptanal, hexanal, phenol derivative, phenylethene, phthalic acid diethyl ester, toluene, unclassified drug, volatile organic compound, animal behavior, animal communication, animal embryo, animal tissue, Article, bird, body movement, chemical analysis, chemical composition, controlled study, correlational study, Coturnix japonica, developmental stage, egg, embryo development, embryo research, fertility, hatching, incubation time, mother fetus relationship, nonhuman, odor, sex difference, volatilization, zygote, Aves, bmjgoldcheck, NotOAChecked
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:16814
Deposited On:25 Feb 2015 15:57

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