In a development being heralded as a major advancement for conservation, a team of scientists have proven that embryonic transfer from one bird species' egg can successfully develop in that of another. Fertilized yolk from a houbara bustard, a threatened desert bird native to the Middle East, was placed into the 'white' of a surrogate chicken egg.
And sure enough, the transferred bustard chick embryos continued to grow and hatch normally, despite the unnatural setting of their development.
While the technique still has some refining, scientists are optimistic that the use of surrogate eggs to hatch unrelated bird types will be a boon to conservation efforts. For a rare species like the houbara bustard, which has declined by over 60 percent in recent decades, this method would give embryos in cracked or damaged eggs collected from the wild a renewed chance of survival.
Over the long term, embryonic transfer into surrogate eggs holds the potential to hatch birds from genetic material alone -- pushing science one step closer to reviving extinct species once thought lost to the ages.