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J Exp Zool. 1988 Feb;245(2):144-56.

Embryonic osmoregulation: consequences of high and low water loss during incubation of the chicken egg.

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Department of Zoology, Iowa State University, Ames 50011.


The rates of water loss of domestic chicken eggs were varied during incubation to measure the osmoregulatory ability of the avian embryo. Egg water loss was increased by drilling holes in the eggshell over the airspace on day 13 (I = 21 days) and then placing these eggs in a low relative humidity (r.h.: 0-10%) incubator until hatch. Egg water loss was decreased by placing other eggs in a high-r.h. (85-90%) incubator on day 0. Eggs with low water loss (approximately 6% of initial fresh mass [IFM]) produced embryos and yolks that were not different in wet or dry mass when compared to control eggs that lost approximately 12% of IFM. However, 1-4 gm of excess albumen were left in low-water-loss eggs on day 21. Hatching success was 71% and 89% for low and control eggs, respectively. Low egg water loss did not appear to disturb embryonic growth. The allantoic fluid volume and millimolar allantoic Na+ and Cl- ions declined faster with high and slower with low rates of water loss. Thus, excess water was lost as a result of increased movement of water out of allantoic fluid, which was due to increased active transport of Na+ ions by the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM). Eggs with high water loss had elevated Cl- levels after day 17 in plasma and amniotic fluid, which indicated a period of osmotic stress after depletion of allantoic fluid between day 18 and hatch. The decrease in wet embryo mass measured in embryos from high-water-loss eggs was due principally to dehydration of skin. Embryonic skin may serve as an emergency water reservoir during osmotic stress. Dehydrated chicks produced from high-water-loss eggs were 6 gm less in wet mass at hatch compared to controls. However, these chicks regained the water deficit 7 days after hatch and grew at a rate not different from control chicks through 6 weeks of age. Total egg water loss of 12% of IFM results in highest hatching success. However, water losses between 6% and 20% of IFM do not appear to affect adversely the growth or water content of the chick. Water losses above 20% of IFM cause early depletion of allantoic fluid, prolong the period of osmotic stress, and result in subsequent dehydration of blood, amniotic fluid, and embryonic skin.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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