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Combined Use of Electron and Light Microscopy Techniques Reveals False Secondary Shell Units in Megaloolithidae Eggshells.

May 6, 2016

Abnormalities in the histo- and ultrastructure of the amniote eggshell are often related to diverse factors, such as ambient stress during egg formation, pathologies altering the physiology of the egg-laying females, or evolutionarily selected modifications of the eggshell structure that vary the physical properties of the egg, for example increasing its strength so as to avoid fracture during incubation. When dealing with fossil materials, all the above hypotheses are plausible, but a detailed taphonomical study has to be performed to rule out the possibility that secondary processes of recrystallization have occurred during fossilization. Traditional analyses, such as optical microscopy inspection and cathodoluminescence, have proven not to be enough to understand the taphonomic story of some eggshells. Recently, electron backscatter diffraction has been used, in combination with other techniques, to better understand the alteration of fossil eggshells. Here we present a combined study using scanning electron microscopy, optical microscopy, cathodoluminescence and electron backscatter diffraction of eggshell fragments assigned to Megaloolithus cf. siruguei from the Upper Cretaceous outcrops of the Cameros Basin. We focus our study on the presence of secondary shell units that mimic most aspects of the ultrastructure of the eggshell mammillae, but grow far from the inner surface of the eggshell. We call these structures extra-spherulites, describe their crystal structure and demonstrate their secondary origin. Our study has important implications for the interpretation of secondary shell units as biological or pathological structures. Thus, electron backscatter diffraction complements other microscope techniques as a useful tool for understanding taphonomical alterations in fossil eggshells.

Miguel Moreno-Azanza , Blanca Bauluz, José Ignacio Canudo, José Manuel Gasca & Fidel Torcida Fernández-Baldor (2016)
Combined Use of Electron and Light Microscopy Techniques Reveals False Secondary Shell Units in Megaloolithidae Eggshells.
PLoS ONE 11(5): e0153026.


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