3D printing technology helps biologists craft fake eggs to understand how the birds perception changes and what particular characteristics make the difference.
We know that not all birds care for their offspring. Some of them just dump their eggs into their carefully crafted nest and leave the chick-to-be in the hands of nature. The special 3D printed eggs should be an efficient strategy that helps biologists to discover how the birds react to the presence of alien eggs.
Animal behaviorist Mark Hauber of CUNY Hunter College proceeded with this study to analyze the way in which birds can tell the difference between their own eggs and those that parasitic bird species are used to sneaking in ready-made nests. These birds are known as “brood parasites”, mischievously passing off parenting duties to species that are more inclined to nesting, caring and breeding.
3D printing technologies allow scientists to craft real-sized eggs, with perfect shapes and perfect structures, so that birds find it confusing to make a difference. Many years have passed since biologists tried to find out a steady answer for birds behavior, making efforts by crafting hand-made eggs, obviously much different than the original ones.
All egg rejection studies recall for special crafting skills and 3D printing tech is here to help scientists out.
By now, analysis on American robins and the species’ brood parasites, known under the name of cowbirds, have shown some irrelevant details on animal behavior. The two species are known to have quite different egg structures, from color, which is blue in the American robins’ case and beige for the cowbirds. Usually, cowbirds manage to fool robins enough for their sneakiness to be an evolutionary win. Researchers want to analyze the importance in shape and color of an individual impostor egg, in order to reveal its rate of survival in an alien nest.
By now, they only managed to gather small pieces of information, as the techniques in crafting lacked precision and the eggs looked quite distorted. Birds used to react immediately, as the enemy was obviously trespassing their private nesting business, looking dramatically different than any other natural alien egg.
However, the 3D printed eggs don’t have a perfect shape yet and their colors are not exactly great. Scientists still look for ways to make them better in order to gain most insightful information on birds reaction. The plastic shells are still too strong to be pierced by their beaks and the colors are not yet a real life replica of the original eggs.
Hauber is still working on perfecting his skills, aiming to create and egg that can be punctured.