Effect of population bottlenecks on the egg morphology of introduced birds in New Zealand

Hatching failure is inversely correlated with population bottleneck size among exotic birds introduced to New Zealand, but the mechanism for this is unclear. We assess whether the bottlenecks these species experienced during their introduction have affected hatching failure through deleterious changes in egg morphology. We measured egg size and shape of 13 species that passed through bottlenecks of 11–800 individuals during their establishment in the 19th century. Eggs were also measured in the source populations (‘pre-bottleneck’) of each species to compare pre- and post-bottleneck egg morphology directly. Significant changes in egg volume were found in six of 13 species, with most laying smaller eggs in New Zealand. Egg shape changed in four of 13 species but there was no directional bias; two species developed more elongated eggs and two species broader eggs. There was no relationship between bottleneck size and change in egg volume, but species passing through severe bottlenecks had greater variability in egg volume and were more likely to have eggs that deviated in shape from their source populations. There was no relationship between changes in either egg volume or shape and rates of hatching failure. Further work is needed to assess whether changes in egg morphology have negative consequences on offspring fitness and whether the observed changes are the result of differing environmental conditions in the introduced range.