Embryos of Yellowlegs gulls (Larus michahellis) respond to calls made by their parents when they are already inside the eggs. They do it by vibrating inside the shell, according to a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. And not only that, but they also show physical and behavioral differences once they are born.
It is not the first study that shows that embryos inside the eggs, belonging either to amphibians or reptiles or even to insects, can receive sensory information from the outside in order to prepare themselves for the reality that they will soon have to face. According to Jose Noguera and Alberto Velando, two researchers from the University of Vigo, the young of unborn yellow-legged gulls are able to hear, from inside the eggs, the cries of warning of the parents and react by making small vibrations.
But listen to the warning cries of parents seems also lead to physical and behavioral changes of the chicks once they are born. The researchers carried out experiments on 90 gull eggs collected from the island of Sálvora, off the north-west of Spain.
After taking several dozens of eggs, they incubated them in groups of three. They then extracted two of the three eggs incubated and exposed them four times a day to warning sounds of registered adult specimens, or subjected them to silence.
Embryos subjected to calls from adults seemed to vibrate when the recording and continue to vibrate even when they were put back in the incubator were reproduced. According to scientists, the continue to vibrate even in the incubator could serve to warn the embryos of other eggs that had not been exposed to the cries.
Furthermore, the researchers noted that the birds exposed to the adults’ verses took longer to be born and, once born, they are more silent than the chicks that were instead exposed to silence. And again, the chicks exposed to the screams seemed to squat more when exposed to perceived threats. They also tended to be smaller and showed shorter legs.
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