A new study has shown that guillemot eggs are self-cleaning due to special structures on their shells.
The study by Dr. Steven Portugal from royal veterinary college in London noticed that during a ‘minor spillage’ in the lab that the guillemot’s eggs reacted differently to water, as the water formed small droplets on the shell.
The liquid-repelling properties meant that the spheres of water fell away, taking dirt with them, a method copied in engineering as self-cleaning.
Dr. Portugal examined the eggs with a highly sensitive laser-scanning microscope, discovering cone like structures on the surface of the shell. He tested other eggs that share the same type of habitat and found these to be absent of the structures.
It is thought that due to guillemots unusual nesting sites on precarious cliff edges, the shells have evolved to handle dense colonies and salt spray coming off the sea. The sea birds also don’t build nests but have conical eggs that roll less on cliff edges.
It is thought that the self-cleaning shells allow the embryo inside to breathe.