As this paper goes to press a complete review of the chemistry of the fertile egg will be appearing (19). The author, Mr. J. Needham, was kind enough to allow me to inspect his manuscript and thus avail myself of the comprehensive bibliography and discussion. It is surprising that no biochemists have estimated the changing water content of the egg during incubation. Many of the analyses reported in Needham's review were expressed in per cent of total weight or per cent of dry solid, and consequently are of questionable value, since these latter functions are themselves changing; the former due to water evaporation and the latter through the addition of shell constituents and the burning of oxidizable organic compounds. Moreover, there has been no statistical treatment of the results, and the reliability of the average, figures obtained has consequently been difficult to estimate.
Tangl's work, quoted throughout this paper, except for its lack of statistical treatment is more enlightening. However, his concept of the so called "Energy of Embryogenesis" which he propounds, seems to me misleading and unwarranted. What Tangl measured was the amount and the caloric value of the solid material burned and thus the quantity of energy lost during the embryonic period. The latter is equivalent to the usual measurements of catabolism. In the case of the embryo it is not basal metabolism which is being estimated, since the conditions are not basal. The embryo is absorbing and assimilating nutriment all the while at a relatively rapid rate.
The calorific value of the oxidized solid, which is in truth the amount of energy lost during a certain chosen interval, in Tangl's judgment stands for the energy of embryogenesis; i.e., the energy of development (growth + differentiation). We believe that this conception is erroneous. The two processes, anabolism and catabolism, occur together and undoubtedly have some relationship, but surely one is not a measure of the other.
In a starving animal, and so probably in a starving embryo, there is a considerable amount of so called basal metabolism. Thus if the "Embryogenetic Energy" were measured under these conditions a figure would be obtained for which there was no growth to correspond, or in other words there would be a value for something which did not exist.
It will be seen in our later communications that the changes with age of metabolic rate and growth rate do not coincide. The amount of catabolism under certain circumstances does not accelerate growth or anabolism, but seems rather to be a limiting factor. It is as if when the absorbed energy were constant an increase of catabolism would make inroads upon the amount of energy which otherwise would remain for storage (growth).
If, as Pembrey's (20) experiments would tend to show, there is an increase of metabolism in the oldest embryos when the outside temperature is lowered, one would find at the end of incubation in such cases that there was a greater amount of so called "Energy of Development" but smaller embryo. It seems that the potential energy amassed as growth comes from that remaining after the needs of the body have been satisfied.
The results of the experiments described in this paper have formed the basis for judgment in the selection of suitable standard conditions for the incubation of hen's eggs. Standardization was necessary so that in future experiments the more important environmental factors might be kept uniform within a certain appropriate range and therefore not be held accountable for deviations observed in the embryos.
Henceforth in this series of papers the term "standard incubation conditions" will signify that (1) the temperature was constantly at 38.8 ± 0.4°C., (2) the humidity at 67.5 ± 2.5 per cent, (3) there was a continuous flow of warm air into the incubator to provide the necessary circulation, and (4) the eggs were rolled once a day within the constant temperature room.
The incubator, a double-walled copper cabinet, stands in a constant temperature room, the fluctuations of which are ± 1.0°C. The space between the walls of the incubator is filled with water which serves as a buffer to outer variations.
It might be repeated that all the eggs are from White Leghorn hens, are incubated 2 days after laying, and that they are kept cold during the interval necessary for transportation.
With the figures from our chemical analyses and metabolic rate experiments, it was possible to calculate values for the concentration of total solids, fat, and nitrogen throughout the incubation period. These data were necessary as a general chemical background for further work. The results of the calculations are obviously rough. Because of the great variability of the eggs a satisfactory degree of accuracy could not have been attained without a very large number of analyses supplemented by complete statistical treatment. The necessity for such a comprehensive study was not evident, and it is our belief that the approximations reached in this paper are sufficiently close to serve our present purposes.
The chief facts that have been ascertained in this investigation are
(1) Loss of water by the egg during incubation is a function of the atmospheric humidity in its immediate environment. More rapid circulation of air lowers the humidity around the egg and thus increases evaporation. Other facts influencing evaporation are (a) atmospheric temperature, (b) thickness and surface area of the shell, and (c) conditions within the egg, the most important of which, it is suggested, is the amount of heat produced by the embryo. The latter factor, in turn, depends upon its size and age, and a significant change does not become apparent until the last 3 or 4 days of incubation, that is to say, when the embryo is of sufficient mass to exert a measurable force.
(2) The surface area of the eggs in sq. cm. may be approximately represented by the formula S = K W⅔, where K = 5.07 ± 0.10, and W = the weight of the whole egg in gm.
(3) There is a loss of weight by the shell during incubation. This is most noticeable near the end of the cycle, when the loss seems to parallel in general the weight of the embryo.
(4) There is also a loss of solid matter during incubation. Chemical analyses indicate that about 98 per cent of the material oxidized is fat. This conclusion is corroborative of previous work by Hasselbalch, Hasselbalch and Bohr, and Tangl.
(5) Carbon dioxide may be measured with relative accuracy. When it is assumed that it is derived from the oxidation of fat, satisfactory corroboration of the chemical analyses is obtained.
These experiments have furnished the data from which the values have been calculated for total solids, fats, and protein in the whole egg throughout incubation. The figures may be used later for comparison with the concentration of these substances within the embryo.