D.he most perfect thing in the universe can not only be found on trees and shrubs, but also in most refrigerators. It’s pretty tasty whether you pan-fry it or boil it in a pot. Some like it without anything, others sprinkle salt on it, dip it in tartar sauce or make a salad. It’s yellow in the middle and white around it. And, already figured out what it’s about? Sure, we’re talking about the egg!
But why should it be the most perfect thing in the universe? Actually, we should ask the American author and civil rights activist Thomas Wentworth Higginson, because he made this claim. However, he’s been dead for more than a hundred years. That’s why we’re now trying to find out on our own whether he was right. First of all, let’s make one thing clear: not all eggs are the same.
Everyone knows chicken eggs, they have a white or beige shell and are sold in cardboard boxes. But who has ever seen a greenfinch’s egg? Or a yellow mocker? Or, particularly impressively, a guillemot? Since this not at all foolish bird breeds on stone cliffs, its egg is top-shaped – so it cannot roll down. And first the colors! As if it were Easter. One guillemot lays greenish eggs, with her neighbor they are more blue to purple or even grained, just as if an artist had sprayed dark blobs on them with his paintbrush. This appearance is used for camouflage. Many animals have their mouth watering when they see eggs. Bird parents have to be very careful. Well, not all, woodpeckers or owls get so seldom uninvited visitors in their burrows that their eggs can stay white. It is different with the robin. It broods on the ground, and because there is always something going on there, its eggs are spotted. If you want to track them down, you have to look very carefully. It gets really crazy with the size differences. While the eggs of some hummingbirds are reminiscent of tic tacs, the African ostrich lays a lump weighing one and a half kilograms in the nest. There would be room for more than twenty hen eggs.
The professional research into eggs is so important, by the way, that it has a name of its own: oology. Sounds funny, but it’s serious business, at least for oologists. However, they only examine the outer shell of eggs. Her colleagues, the biologists, are investigating what goes on inside. One of them is Roland Prinzinger. He used to be a professor at the University of Frankfurt and President of the German Ornithological Society – it’s a kind of bird fan club. He says about the egg: “The exciting thing is that in such a structure life can develop independently of external circumstances.”
People, pigs, elephants, giraffes, cows, squirrels – all these animals grow up in their mother’s womb. Birds, on the other hand, do this in the egg. And after it was laid. Because if a chaffinch wanted to give birth to four to six young alive, it would only be possible one after the other. The little ones would not have space in their mother’s body at the same time. “If they would fit in,” says Roland Prinzinger, “they would be so heavy that the bird could no longer fly.”