April 18, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

The Information Packed Into a Bird Egg

There’s more in a bird’s egg than can be accounted for by the Reverse Humpty Dumpty Hypothesis (i.e., Darwinism).

Hummingbird eggs, by David Coppedge

A Closer Look at a Bird Egg

In 27 June 2017, we quoted Thomas Higginson who in 1862 wagered that a bird’s egg should be voted “the most perfect thing in the universe.” His opinion received support recently from researchers from Montreal, Canada, who took a closer look at eggshells. Publishing their work in the open-access journal Science Advances, they found that eggshells are dynamic structures, that begin hard to prevent breakage while the mother bird incubates them, but gradually soften near hatching time so that the chick can peck its way out. The science was advanced online by Nature, and Phys.org included a video clip from the research that reveals the fine structure of the eggshell.

The results also provide insight into the biology and development of chicken embryos in fertilized and incubated eggs. Eggs are sufficiently hard when laid and during brooding to protect them from breaking. As the chick grows inside the eggshell, it needs calcium to form its bones. During egg incubation, the inner portion of the shell dissolves to provide this mineral ion supply, while at the same time weakening the shell enough to be broken by the hatching chick. Using atomic force microscopy, and electron and X-ray imaging methods, Professor McKee’s team of collaborators found that this dual-function relationship is possible thanks to minute changes in the shell’s nanostructure that occurs during egg incubation.

World Magazine carried the story with its intelligent design implications, as did Evolution News & Science Today. The discovery may have biomimetic implications, too. World says, “The scientists hope their discovery will allow human engineers to design new, synthetic nanocomposite materials with novel properties.” Unfortunately, co-author Marc McKee gives the credit to blind chance, saying in The Guardian,

When you think about it, we should be making materials that are inspired by nature and by biology because, boy, it is really hard to beat hundreds of millions of years of evolution in perfecting something.

Apparently he wasn’t thinking about it with sufficient depth of logic.

What Comes Out of the Egg

Check hatching on Day 21. Credit: Illustra Media.

Inside that egg was a growing embryo, which was once a single cell. Inside that cell were genetic and epigenetic instructions to grow an adult bird, as Illustra Media beautifully animated in its film Flight: The Genius of Birds. All the instructions for the complete bird were there in the zygote, including the ability to learn as an adult from its environment. This means that the zygote is more complex than the egg, which is more complex than the adult bird. To fathom the amount of information in an egg, let’s look at some adult birds that hatched out of those incredible incubating chambers.

How birds can detect Earth’s magnetic field (Science Daily). Inside that egg was the potential to build navigation equipment that can use input from the magnetosphere. Scientists have been searching for years for the location of that sense. Researchers at Lund University believe they have found it in Cry4, a member of a group of proteins called cryptochromes (‘hidden colors’).

The receptors that sense the Earth’s magnetic field are probably located in the birds’ eyes. Now, researchers at Lund University have studied different proteins in the eyes of zebra finches and discovered that one of them differs from the others: only the Cry4 protein maintains a constant level throughout the day and in different lighting conditions.

Other cryptochromes vary according to the biological clock, but Cry4 does not. Although work remains to be done to see how Cry4 reads magnetic information and responds to it, this is another clue to a long-standing puzzle. The team believes that all animals may have this ability. Do humans? Whatever is determined, there is another potential use for it: “this knowledge may be of use when developing new navigation systems.” See also the write-up on Phys.org.

Birds show astonishing diversity in sizes, colors and habitats, but all develop from eggs in a similar way. Credit: Illustra Media (most images).

New Bird of Paradise Species Has Smooth Dance Moves (National Geographic). Take a look at the photo in this article. Would you think it’s a space alien? This jet-black bird of paradise from West Papua New Guinea, with two bright blue eyes and open beak, sporting a glistening aqua neck pouch, is doing its mating dance. Whether it is really a new species or just a variety is a debate for taxonomists, but the embedded video will likely impress anyone. Peacock spiders (ENV) may be the only animals that out-dazzle the mating dances of birds, except, perhaps, peacocks themselves.

How birds focus even with eyes on opposite sides of their heads (New Scientist). Bird eyes look sideways, so how can they get stereo vision? This article, unfortunately behind a paywall, says that scientists have proposed three ways they might stay focused. Earlier studies showed that head-bobbing in some birds is accompanied by brain ‘software’ that maximizes the time an image remains still, so that the bird can maintain focus and not lose sight of a subject of interest in its field of vision (12 April 2005).

Extremely fast dives help peregrine falcons maneuver to catch agile prey (Science Daily). The world’s fastest bird, the peregrine falcon, can catch its prey during high-speed dives even when the prey is rapidly changing directions. It’s a “risky behavior” that “surely places extraordinary physical and cognitive demands on the falcon.” The team used computer simulations to imitate the hunting strategy, using data from videocams attached to falcons. “The research team found that optimal tuning of the mathematical laws that control steering in the simulation corresponded closely to measurements of steering for real falcons.” Details can be found in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.┬áThe Science Daily article mentions a kind of reverse biomimetics, where humans invented something only to learn that nature had it first. “Detailed computer simulations reveal why falcons dive at their prey using the same steering laws as human-made missiles.” For the falcon, that precision guidance system had to be present inside the egg, and programmed inside the zygote.

We need a corollary for the law of nature we discovered in science media, which states, ‘The more detail in a science paper, the less talk about evolution.’ The corollary should say, ‘…and the more absurd that evolution-talk becomes.’ (See the SEQOTW above for example.)

Darwinians are so silly (e.g., 16 April 2018). They believe in the Reverse Humpty-Dumpty Hypothesis (i.e., Darwinian evolution). By faith, they believe that random biomolecules can leap up and assemble themselves into an egg, given billions of years. Time is not going to help that kind of credulity.

Leave a Reply