The diverse terminology of reptile eggshell microstructure and its effect on phylogenetic comparative analyses
Legendre, Lucas J.
Clarke, Julia A.
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Reptile eggshell ensures water and gas exchange during incubation and plays a key role in reproductive success. The diversity of reptilian incubation and life history strategies has led to many clade-specific structural adaptations of their eggshell, which have been studied in extant taxa (i.e. birds, crocodilians, turtles, and lepidosaurs). Most studies on non-avian eggshells were performed over 30 years ago and categorized reptile eggshells into two main types: “hard” and “soft” – sometimes with a third intermediate category, “semi-rigid.” In recent years, however, debate over the evolution of eggshell structure of major reptile clades has revealed how definitions of hard and soft eggshells influence inferred deep-time evolutionary patterns. Here, we review the diversity of extant and fossil eggshell with a focus on major reptile clades, and the criteria that have been used to define hard, soft, and semi-rigid eggshells. We show that all scoring approaches that retain these categories discretize continuous quantitative traits (e.g. eggshell thickness) and do not consider independent variation of other functionally important microstructural traits (e.g. degree of calcification, shell unit inner structure). We demonstrate the effect of three published approaches to discretizing eggshell type into hard, semi-rigid, and soft on ancestral state reconstructions using 200+ species representing all major extant and extinct reptile clades. These approaches result in different ancestral states for all major clades including Archosauria and Dinosauria, despite a difference in scoring for only 1–4% of the sample. Proposed scenarios of reptile eggshell evolution are highly conditioned by sampling, tree calibration, and lack of congruence between definitions of eggshell type. We conclude that the traditional “soft/hard/semi-rigid” classification of reptilian eggshells should be abandoned and provide guidelines for future descriptions focusing on specific functionally relevant characteristics (e.g. inner structures of shell units, pores, and membrane elements), analyses of these traits in a phylogenetic context, and sampling of previously undescribed taxa, including fossil eggs.
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: [The diverse terminology of reptile eggshell microstructure and its effect on phylogenetic comparative analyses. Journal of Anatomy 241, 3 p641-666 (2022)], which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/joa.13723. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions: https://authorservices.wiley.com/author-resources/Journal-Authors/licensing/self-archiving.html#3.
Legendre, L. J., Choi, S., & Clarke, J. A. (2022). The diverse terminology of reptile eggshell microstructure and its effect on phylogenetic comparative analyses. Journal of Anatomy, 241(3), 641-666.