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24 July 2020 The five million bird eggs in the world's museum collections are an invaluable and underused resource
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The ∼1.97 million egg sets (∼5 million eggs) housed in museums have not been used in proportion to their availability. We highlight the wide variety of scientific disciplines that have used egg collections and the geographic locations and sizes of these collections, to increase awareness of the importance of egg collections, improve their visibility to the scientific community, and suggest that they offer a wealth of data covering large spatial scales and long time series for broad investigations into avian biology. We provide a brief history of egg collections and an updated list of museums/institutions with egg collections worldwide. We also review the limitations, challenges, and management of egg collections, and summarize recent literature based on historical and recent museum egg materials.

Lay summary

  • The 5 million bird eggs in museum collections are an invaluable and underused resource that could be used for a variety of studies.

  • We describe briefly the history of eggs that were collected worldwide over the last 200 years.

  • We show that eggs from collections can be used to study ecology, behavior, evolution, classification, and species conservation.

  • Several of the 300 institutions with egg collections that we list are already making them digitally available and physically accessible to scientists and the general public.

  • We hope with this commentary to increase awareness of the importance of egg collections and improve their visibility and support.

Copyright © American Ornithological Society 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, e-mail:
Received: 19 December 2020; Accepted: 13 May 2020; Published: 24 July 2020

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