Microstructural and crystallographic evolution of palaeognath (Aves) eggshells

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eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd


The avian palaeognath phylogeny has been recently revised significantly due to the advancement of genome-wide comparative analyses and provides the opportunity to trace the evolution of the microstructure and crystallography of modern dinosaur eggshells. Here, eggshells of all major clades of Palaeognathae (including extinct taxa) and selected eggshells of Neognathae and non-avian dinosaurs are analysed with electron backscatter diffraction. Our results show the detailed microstructures and crystallographies of (previously) loosely categorized ostrich-, rhea-, and tinamou-style morphotypes of palaeognath eggshells. All rhea-style eggshell appears homologous, while respective ostrich-style and tinamou-style morphotypes are best interpreted as homoplastic morphologies (independently acquired). Ancestral state reconstruction and parsimony analysis additionally show that rhea-style eggshell represents the ancestral state of palaeognath eggshells both in microstructure and crystallography. The ornithological and palaeontological implications of the current study are not only helpful for the understanding of evolution of modern and extinct dinosaur eggshells, but also aid other disciplines where palaeognath eggshells provide useful archive for comparative contrasts (e.g. palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, geochronology, and zooarchaeology).



microstructural, crystallographic, palaeognath, palaeognath eggshells


Seung Choi Mark E Hauber Lucas J Legendre Noe-Heon Kim Yuong-Nam Lee David J Varricchio (2023) Microstructural and crystallographic evolution of palaeognath (Aves) eggshells eLife 12:e81092.
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