Eggstravaganza

By MDC | March 1, 2022
From Xplor: March/April 2022
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baby box turtle hatching
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Eggstravaganza
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From sky-blue robin eggs to jiggly, jellylike frog eggs, baby wrappers come in an astonishing array of sizes, shapes, and colors.

Nearly 99 percent of Earth’s creatures hatch from eggs. Which makes sense. Eggs do an eggcellent job of protecting and nourishing the little critters growing inside of them. To kick off egg-laying season, we’re eggcited to showcase some of the Show-Me State’s eggstraordinary eggs.

After a mama box turtle covers her eggs with dirt, the temperature of the nest will decide whether boy or girl turtles tunnel out three months later. Warmer nests usually produce girls. Cooler nests usually produce boys.

This baby box turtle used its “egg tooth” to poke a hole through its tough, leathery eggshell. Most baby birds and reptiles have an egg tooth. It's used to escape from the egg, and it disappears as the hatchling grows.

Many mama reptiles lay their eggs and leave. Five-lined skinks guard theirs. If any eggs spoil, the mama skink eats them so the smell doesn’t attract predators. Once her blue-tailed babies hatch, mom scurries away, and the little lizards fend for themselves.

If you cut a penny into five equal slices, each piece would weigh as much as a ruby-throated hummingbird’s egg. Although the pea-sized eggs are the smallest of any bird in Missouri, they’re quite large compared to a mama hummingbird.

For many fish, it’s dad who guards the eggs. This bluegill swishes his fins to move fresh water over the eggs below. If another fish creeps too close — even a big bass — dad will charge to chase it away.

Can you spot the eggs on this milkweed plant? Mama monarchs are picky about where they lay eggs. That's because baby monarchs only eat milkweed. It takes about four days for the tiny caterpillars to hatch. Once they chew their way out, each one eats its eggshell.

Crayfish moms glue their eggs to the underside of their tail flippers. Even after the eggs hatch, the babies continue to cling for several weeks. Eventually, they swim off to explore nearby areas, but they dart back under mom’s tummy if they feel threatened.

Those are some big honking eggs! Canada geese win the prize for laying the largest eggs in Missouri — they’re nearly twice the size of chicken eggs. Trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes both lay larger eggs, but these mega mamas rarely nest in the Show-Me State.

Wrapped in a silken sac between this nursery spider’s legs are hundreds of eggs. Sometimes mom hides the sac on a leaf and spins a tiny tent of silk around it to keep the eggs safe. She guards the sac until her eight-legged babies hatch.

It’s amazing how much baby can fit inside an itty-bitty egg! Although an eastern yellow-bellied racer’s egg is only about an inch long, the baby snake that slithers out of it can stretch up to 10 inches long.

Do you notice something strange about this nest? One of the eggs doesn’t look like the others. The oddball was laid by a brown-headed cowbird. Cowbirds don’t raise their own babies. Instead, they lay eggs in other birds’ nests.

Don’t worry! This little killdeer isn’t dead. It’s just resting. Escaping from an egg is a lot of work! Killdeer lay their eggs on the ground, right out in the open. Luckily, the eggs are well camouflaged so predators have a hard time spotting them.

Lots of animals love to eat eggs. That’s why some mamas lay so many. American bullfrogs can lay over 20,000 eggs at a time! Even though some of the eggs get gobbled up, it’s a good bet that a few will turn into tadpoles.

Also In This Issue

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Cave Salamander
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Join Slimy the Salamander for a look at the lives of a few amazing amphibians.

This Issue's Staff

Artist - Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Photographer – Noppadol Paothong
Photographer – David Stonner
Designer – Marci Porter
Designer – Les Fortenberry
Art Director – Cliff White
Editor – Matt Seek
Subscriptions – Laura Scheuler
Magazine Manager – Stephanie Thurber