Amy Dou is the winner of the 2024 Australian Science Teachers Association i3 Awards in the Year 5-6 Investigations category. The i3 awards are an annual, Australia-wide science fair celebrating inquiry, innovation and ingenuity. Double Helix is delighted to feature Amy’s essay explaining her exceptional research project. For more information about ASTA and the i3 Awards, visit their website here.

Have you ever heard of pear-shaped eggs? These ‘pyriform’ eggs are so fascinating because they have a unique shape different from the usual oval shape, due to adaptation. Having one of the most pronounced pear-shaped eggs, guillemot seabirds lay eggs on sheer cliffs where strong winds can blow them away, but the special shape of their eggs may hold some secret uses. Upon reading about this occurrence, I wondered if this special pyriform-shaped egg can help in its survival, and if it does, how could it help us?

Eggs come in all sorts of shapes

Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Sun Ladder, CC BY-SA 3.0 and Wikimedia Commons/Muséum de Toulouse, CC BY-SA 4.0

For my first experiment, I made four 3D-printed bird egg models: hen (oval), ostrich (elliptical), owl (sphere), and guillemot (pyriform). I placed each egg model at the top of a cardboard ramp and timed it to see how long it would take to fall off of the slope (cliff). The guillemot egg stayed on the ramp around 9 times longer than the other eggs, demonstrating that its shape helps it stay put on steep cliffs.

Four time lapse photos showing the movement taken by different shaped eggs as they roll down a ramp.

Time-lapse images of the ramp experiment show how different eggs roll

Credit: Amy Dou

My second experiment tested the egg models against wind generated by a fan. I placed each egg model at a set distance from the fan and measured the furthest point reached. Once again, the guillemot egg performed better than the others, rolling in arcs and travelling much less distance.

These findings have potential applications in biomimicry. For example, rounded medicine capsules are vulnerable to being dropped and wasted. By using the guillemot egg shape, we can save resources, time, and improve the health of patients, especially the elderly.

So, keep an eye out for interesting egg shapes in nature – you might be surprised by what you can learn from them! Did you know there are fairy eggs too – eggs with no yolk?

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