Ever wanted to hunt for digital eggs instead of chocolate ones at Easter? Perhaps not, but here is a brilliant online game about hunting for nightjar eggs that is both fun and calorie-free! Do have a go and be a valuable part of an experiment in the evolution of camouflage.
The game (EggLab) is part of Project Nightjar, a study of camouflage run by Dr Martin Stevens of the Sensory Ecology Group at the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus), in collaboration with the Behavioural Ecology Group at the University of Cambridge. The study focuses on ground nesting birds like nightjars, including their well-camouflaged eggs…
EggLab may be an Easter egg hunt with a difference but it’s also a genuine science experiment to find out how types of camouflage can evolve in different habitats. The game is based on three species of nightjars who each like to lay their eggs in different places – from open habitats to leaf litter. Populations of eggs on different backgrounds (sand, grass, soil, leaves etc.) evolve colours and patterns over time, based on how speedily they are spotted by the egg-hunters.
For Project Nightjar’s eggs to have a chance to evolve, effectively matching the habitats they are laid in, a lot of people need to play the game! Do have a go yourself (it takes less than a minute to hunt out one batch of eggs) and please pass this on to anyone you know who would enjoy a bit of fun and being a real part of science, over Easter and beyond. Every egg counts!
You can follow Project Nightjar Twitter and check in out on Flikr. The Sensory Ecology Group is also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Map of Life is also on Facebook and Twitter – follow us for convergent evolution and more.