Effects of experimental calcium availability, egg parameters and laying order on Great Tit Parus major eggshell pigmentation patterns

Rita Hargitai, Gergely Nagy, Márton Herényi, János Török

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Many bird species lay eggs speckled with protoporphyrin-based spots, however, for most of them the function of eggshell spotting is unknown. A plausible hypothesis is that protoporphyrin might have a structural function in strengthening the eggshell and is therefore deposited when calcium is scarce. In this study, we experimentally provided Great Tit Parus major females with supplemental calcium to examine its effect on the protoporphyrin-based maculation of their eggs. In addition, we studied variation in eggshell pigmentation patterns in relation to other egg parameters and laying order. Calcium-supplemented females laid larger eggs but shell thickness was not significantly affected by the treatment. Calcium supplementation may reduce the time and energy females devote to searching for calcium-rich material, so that they can collect more nutrients and so lay larger eggs. Furthermore, pigment darkness was associated with egg volume and shape, which suggests that female quality and environmental food availability may also influence the shell pigmentation pattern. Within clutches, later-laid eggs had larger and darker spots that were distributed more unevenly on the shell surface. This within-clutch pattern could be explained by the increase in egg volume and egg shape and a decline in shell thickness with egg-laying order, which characteristics were all related to shell-spotting pattern. Eggs with a coronal ring had thinner shells, but pigment intensity and spot size were not related to shell thickness. Thus, our results suggest that concentrated spotting distribution may have a mechanical function, supporting the structural-function hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-570
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Calcium supplementation
  • Egg volume
  • Eggshell thickness
  • Laying order
  • Protoporphyrin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of experimental calcium availability, egg parameters and laying order on Great Tit Parus major eggshell pigmentation patterns'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this