Fabergé, Eat Your Heart Out

Small is beautiful ~ Zebra longwing Butterfly Egg

I can’t quite remember why I spent so much time counting cabbage looper butterfly eggs through a dissecting microscope in grad school.

I know it was a radionuclide project–maybe a thesis study by a fellow student. I think we were attempting to correlate pre- and post-ovipositing body load of maybe zinc-65 in an adult female of the species (an important pest crop of cole plants like broccoli and cabbage) with the number of eggs they laid in their containers.

I do remember noting that the eggs were not just little round pea-looking things. They had some kind of ornamentation and architecture that I could not quite make out with the 50x lens.

So seeing this variety of insect eggs at National Geographic evoked a long-overdue appreciation for just how wonderfully fashioned these almost-invisible eggs can be.

Do give the slide series a look by by Martin Oeggleri a look.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Wow! Each of the eggs with their micropyle visible were just amazing. What complex detail on a one celled thing. That much detail on a multicellur organism would be awe inspiring.

  2. Hmmm. I wonder if the egg exterior is cellular at all. Maybe it’s just a chitinous shell–like a calcium carbonate hen’s egg. The ovum inside is a single cell–waiting for the sperm to find the clearly marked micropyle. Why so clearly delineated, like a runway or bulls-eye? Do insect sperm “see” or sense their way along?

  3. I wouldn’t think the exterior of the single-celled egg would be multicellular. But how did nature make that awesome pattern???