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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: Camouflaged Quail Eggs Hide in Plain Sight
17 January 2013 12:00 pm
A run-of-the-mill Japanese quail egg looks like it's been splattered with ink. Some quail hens lay beige eggs with just a few tiny speckles. Others have dark hefty blots. But the birds always lay them on the ground where, theoretically, they're vulnerable to predators. To see if quail used the natural landscape to camouflage their eggs, researchers set up a small pen with patches of ground covered in sand of different colors—white, beige, red-brown, and black. After photographing 179 eggs laid by quail (above and in high-resolution), the team used a computer program to detect the outlines of the eggs, then moved the eggs to alternative backgrounds to compare detection. The quail knew which backgrounds camouflaged their eggs best against the eyes of predators, the team reports today in Current Biology, laying the lightly spotted eggs on light backgrounds and the heavily spotted eggs on dark backgrounds. The quail even chose the absolute best of the four options about half the time, showing that these bird brains are capable of some serious strategy.
See more ScienceShots.