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Ostriches recognise their own eggs and discard others


WILD ostriches (Struthio camelus L.) generally use communal nests1–4. In East Africa, 2–7 hens lay up to 13 eggs each in the same shallow scrape in the ground. Only one, the ‘major’ hen2, guards and later incubates the nest, helped by the male. Although a complete nest may contain up to 30–40 of the white 1.5-kg eggs4,5, an ostrich hen can incubate only about 20 (unpublished data). The surplus are pushed out to 1–2 m away where they are not incubated, and perish. I report here that the major hen avoids pushing out her own eggs.

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BERTRAM, B. Ostriches recognise their own eggs and discard others. Nature 279, 233–234 (1979).

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