Researchers studying one of the world's rarest seabirds have captured what is believed to be the first photo ever taken of a bird in flight with an egg inside her visibly protruding in the form of a little baby bird bump.
But this image of a clearly-expectant Mascarene petrel isn't just a novel; it's helping scientists to better understand the breeding cycle of a bird which, until now, has been a mystery.
This petrel species is only found on Réunion Island, a few hundred miles east of Madagascar, living in colonies containing perhaps just a few dozen breeding pairs. Their small, isolated population puts them at high risk of extinction, prompting them to be classified as a critically endangered species.
Vincent Bretagnolle, co-author of a study on the team's findings, tells Birdlife International that this rare sighting, along with several others, indicates the birds have a more robust population.
"With some estimates of only a few dozen breeding pairs of Mascarene Petrel our at-sea records suggest there are more individuals than thought, and that unknown colonies somewhere on the island have ensured the future of this species, at least for now."