Dr Philipp Boersch‑Supan

Quantitative Ecologist

New paper - Albatross egg temperatures

graphical summary

New paper published on egg temperature ontogenies in subantarctic albatrosses:

Knowledge of thermal traits is essential for understanding and modelling physiological responses to environmental change. Egg temperatures are poorly studied in most tubenose species. Our new study Surface temperatures of albatross eggs and nests fills a part of this data gap.

We used a contactless infrared thermometer to measure egg and nest surface temperatures throughout the incubation period for four albatross species at Bird Island, South Georgia. Observed egg temperatures were lower than the egg temperatures reported for most Procellariiformes. Temperature gradients across viable eggs declined by up to 9°C during incubation, reflecting increased embryonic circulation and metabolic heat production. This suggests that bioenergetic models should not assume constant egg temperatures during embryo development. Non-viable (addled) eggs could be identified by large temperature gradients in late incubation, indicating that infrared thermometry can be used to determine whether the embryo has died or the egg is infertile in monitoring and managed breeding (e.g. translocation) programmes. Egg temperatures were correlated with ground temperatures, indicating that incubated eggs are vulnerable to environmental variability.

This study was conducted in collaboration with Leah Johnson, Richard Phillips, and Sadie Ryan.