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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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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.