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This YouTube video (screenshots attached) claims to show Japanese schoolchildren breaking an egg into a kind of clingfilm "hammock in a cup", and then growing and hatching a chick from it in an incubator.

Is this really real?

My first immediate thought is, "If this can happen, why don't the eggs in my cupboard at home sometimes hatch? Why do I never see an embryo in my frying pan?"

Obviously the egg has to be fertilised, but depending upon where you get your eggs (like an "organic home farm" or something) this might happen.

If it's more a matter of temperature, how warm do the eggs have to be? For how long? (ie, Could a warm kitchen cupboard in a hot summer do it?)

What other biological requirements are there to make this work?


egg in cup cup in incubator growing embryo egg is alive forming chick chick running around

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  • $\begingroup$ It is perfectly clear what the question is, and it is not a subjective answer. I'm not sure why this question was flagged for closure. @WYSIWYG's answer covers it comprehensively. $\endgroup$ – James Jun 10 '16 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ The eggs have to be kept warm for the embryo to develop. They're removed from the nesting boxes as soon as they're laid so the embryo never has a chance to develop. $\endgroup$ – Graham Chiu Jun 10 '16 at 11:32
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Yes it is real, in the sense that this protocol has been through a peer reviewed journal.

Note that the embryo is developing outside the shell, not outside the egg. It is the fertilized egg that develops into the embryo. The shell only provides protection and allows exchange of gases. You can replace the shell with any other material that does the same job. Embryos of non-placental animals can grow in a petridish as well. Someone seems to have done this back in the 1980s (Scadding, 1981).

You can see a video along with the detailed protocol of this process in this article published in the Journal of Visual Experimentation.

Why do I never see an embryo in my frying pan?

Because it has probably become an omelette.

how warm do the eggs have to be?

37-39oC is the ideal temperature and usually hen eggs hatch in 21 days (common poultry facts). However, the incubation time can depend on other factors (including temperature) such as humidity and air composition.

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  • $\begingroup$ At first glance, this seems like it might be a good way to monitor embryonic development in the chicken, since you could see the whole process in real time. But you point out that this was probably done in the 80s. Any thought on why it never caught on? $\endgroup$ – user137 Jun 10 '16 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ @user137 I don't have a great knowledge of history of embryology but as far as I know chick embryo was a model system for embryology since long ago (and for quite some time). So I guess people would have actually used this technique. Possibly people started working on other model organisms later on. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Jun 10 '16 at 9:41

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