Scientists Use 3D Printed Eggs to Study Wild-Bird Behavior

By Staff Reporter - 28 May '15 02:49AM

New research that studied the benefits of using 3D printing to see how birds reject eggs has been published in the PeerJ journal.

Researchers used artificial eggs made out of wood, plaster and other materials in studies prior to using 3D printers. However, they had significant limitations.

Brood parasites try to slip their eggs into other bird's nests. However, birds have the ability to identify and reject these eggs.

"Previously we had to have a lot of on hand type of work to make these eggs. We had to use plaster of Paris.... [I]t was very poorly controlled and poorly standardized," Hauber said in a statement.

"I think the technological advance is important enough that this will serve as a model and a method for other studies," Hauber said. "We can standardize experiments in a much more well-controlled way than possible before."

"The most interesting thing is just that this opens the door to making standardized stimuli for these types of reports," Prof. Don Dearborn, an evolutionary biologist at Bates College who was not involved with the study, said in a statement.

The study found that "color is the most important factor in rejecting the eggs" for the American robin.

"Subtle changes that were introduced accidentally for the plaster egg or on purpose by our 3D printing process in the 3D-printed eggs [had] no impact on the rejection [rate]," said Hauber.

The robins were accepting of all the 3D-printed eggs painted to resemble the color of a robin egg. But they rejected 79 percent of the 3D-printed eggs that had been painted the color of a cowbird egg, according to the research.

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