An Eggcellent new addition to the collection

A Rhea view of an egg

Curator of Natural Sciences, Lee Ismail, measuring the Rhea egg at the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton.

We receive no end of fantastic enquiries at the Booth Museum, perhaps snakes, bugs, meteorites, flints and bones being amongst the most common. So it really is refreshing when something new comes along, and on a Wednesday in the middle of August something very new appeared. At the doorway to our office stood Chris Cain, a kayaker in his spare time, who the evening before had been paddling gently between Brighton Pier and the Marina when he spotted what he thought was a ball. On closer inspection, he realised that it was an egg! But not just any old egg – fully 6 inches long, heavy, and undamaged. Wisely, he brought it to us at the Booth and Natural Sciences Curator Lee Ismail consulted our birds eggs collection and soon identified it as an egg from a South American bird known as a Rhea.

Rheas are large, flightless birds, rather like Ostriches and Emus, but the question on all our minds was – what on Earth is a Rhea’s egg doing floating off Brighton’s shore? Clearly the most exciting prospect was that this egg had floated on oceanic currents all the way from South America. But a little research soon prompted more sensible possibilities. Rheas are good eating – and moreover so are their eggs. As a result they are farmed – not commonly – but nevertheless it soon became apparent that farms exist in this country – and we understand that a small number of these birds are kept at Pevensey. Is this the source of our egg? Well – we shall never know for sure, and there is still no simple explanation of how such an egg could possibly have ended up in the sea.

We will soon remove the contents of the egg – this could be a smelly job! And then we will add it to our collections, together with perhaps more of a history to it than most others in our collection

John Cooper

Keeper of Natural Sciences

Booth Museum

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