It is virtually impossible for a prospective Magellanic penguin mother to find or build a soft spot to lay her eggs. So it turns out that her eggs come with extra-thick shells to withstand being laid on hard surfaces and survive being kicked around during penguin fights.
But it takes a lot of extra calcium to produce thicker shells, and a penguin cant just run to the corner drugstore to pick up some calcium-rich antacid tablets. New research led by a University of Washington biologist shows that during the period when eggs are being laid, female penguins have significantly more mollusk shells, mainly clams and mussels, in their stomachs than males do. The mollusk shells gradually leach calcium used to form eggshells.
Penguins typically nest on hard surfaces near coastlines and, if soil conditions are right, they might build burrows. Because they cant fly and are made to be agile swimmers rather than to walk gracefully on land, it is rare that they can collect much soft nesting material.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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