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Remarkable CT Scan of California Condor Egg

In 1982, just 22 wild condors remained. Today, 344 of the birds are flying freely in the wild, with another 217 living in captivity. California condors were the first birds to recover from a former “extinct in the wild” status. This is due to the remarkable care and attention of conservationists, as resorting to a CT scan shows. It also offers a rare glimpse inside the embryonic world of one of the world’s most endangered birds.

California condors, which are still critically endangered, are the largest wild birds in North America’s skies, with wingspans that can top eight feet. But before they can start growing to such large proportions, the creatures must overcome their first hurdle: breaking out of their shells. This is why veterinarians who run California condor breeding programs in the United States keep a close eye on developing eggs.

CT scan of a California Condor egg
Credit: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Several weeks ago, reports Smithsonian Magazine, an egg being monitored by the breeding team at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance started to raise alarm bells - the chick, it seemed, was in a contorted position.

So, in order to accurately assess the situation - and the bird’s survival prospects - specialists placed the California condor egg in a computed tomography (CT) machine, revealing a detailed, three-dimensional view of what was happening inside.

The CT scan was shared when the zoo announced the chick had hatched successfully, marking its 250th condor birth - and another notable milestone for a species that narrowly evaded extinction.

“We can see the skeleton and air pockets in the egg,” Nora Willis, senior wildlife care specialist for the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, told New Scientist. “I’m still blown away by it.”


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