A video of Japanese high school students hatching a chick with no eggshell has been viewed on Facebook more than 23 million times.
While the Spoon & Tamago Facebook video claims the students “found a way” to hatch the egg, the science experiment actually comes from a shell-less hatching method described in a Japan Poultry Science Association journal paper from 2014.
The researchers studied egg-less hatching in an endeavour to develop a shell-less culture method for bird embryos with high hatchability.
“High hatchability would be useful for the efficient generation of transgenic chickens, embryo manipulations, tissue engineering and basic studies in regenerative medicine,” the authors write. They state a shell-less culture could also be helpful for preserving rare birds and saving damaged eggs.
“The shell-less culture technique for chick embryos also potentially plays an important role in the education of school children in life sciences, through the direct observation of embryonic development,” they add.
Now the high school students' video shows that there is at least one biology class in Japan observing chicken embryo development in this manner.
To hatch a shell-less egg, the researchers used plastic wrap and a sterile ‘culture vessel’, which is made out of a plastic cup with a 1 – 1.5 cm diametre hole about 2 cm from the bottom of the cup, plugged with a cotton ball as a filter. A plastic tube is put through the hole under the cotton to provide an oxygen supply. A liquid solution was then added to the cup.
The plastic wrap is placed over the cup in a way so that it creates a concave shape inside the cup. A form of calcium powder is added to the culture vessel as well as sterilised distilled water. The pre-incubated fertilised chicken eggs are then cracked and poured into the culture vessel (into the concave plastic wrap).
Ten ventilation holes are made at the top of the plastic wrap by melting the film with a heated glass rod. The culture vessel is then covered with more plastic wrap to ensure the humidity inside is at 100 per cent.
From here on the angle of the cup is changed twice a day, and pure oxygen supplied through the plastic tube from day 17.
When the students did all this, the chicks started to develop over the coming weeks and a chick was actually born after 21 days. Watch the video above to see it running around!
Learning about embryo development from an actual shell-less hatchery sounds like a really cool science project to us. Would you try that at home?