A team from Harvard University is behind a new database on insect eggs. The expansive database captures the diversity in the sizes and shapes of these eggs. This data can help scientists explore how insect eggs evolve over time.
The Diversity of Insect Eggs
The new database includes almost 10,500 insect egg descriptions. These were taken from around 6,700 different insect species. Some insect eggs are spherical, while others are shaped like an oblong. The earth-borer beetle or Bolboleaus hiaticollis has the largest known insect egg, and this is about the size of the average pinky fingernail. On the other end of the spectrum, the wasp species Platygaster vernalis has the smallest known insect egg, ad this is about the size of half the width of a very thin strand of human hair.
The new database is explained in greater detail in Scientific Data, while the study about the work done to create the database is published in Nature. Covered in the database are insect eggs so diverse in size that they cover eight orders of magnitude.
An analysis of the database by the Harvard team reveals some possible reasons for the wide differences in the shapes and sizes of insect eggs. The researchers have discovered that the environment in which an insect lays its eggs is a contributing factor in how these eggs evolve over time. Consequently, you can expect insect eggs laid in water to evolve differently from insect eggs laid in the bodies of different living creatures.
In a separate 2017 study held by Princeton University researchers, Mary Stoddard, an evolutionary biologist, and her colleagues looked at diversity in birds’ eggs. They examined close to 50,000 photos of these eggs to find a link between the shape of the egg and the bird’s ability to fly. Commenting on the new study on insect eggs, Stoddard believes that eggs can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary and ecological forces that play a part in animal reproduction.