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PalaeovertebrataVol. 32, Fasc. 2-4:77-95. 2003
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Experimental taphonomy inavian eggs and eggshells: effects on early diagenesis.
Ana M. Bravo, D. A. Buscalioni, Lauro Merino and B. G. MüllerKeywords: archosaurian eggshells; avian egg; Experimental taphonomy; geochemical analysis; pyritisation; Upper Cretaceous
Cite this article: Bravo A. M., Buscalioni D. A., Merino L., Müller B. G., 2003. Experimental taphonomy inavian eggs and eggshells: effects on early diagenesis. Palaeovertebrata 32 (2-4): 77-95.
We experimentally explore the early taphonomic stages involving the decay and biodegradation of buried eggs and eggshells. Unfertilised commercial chicken eggs and eggshell fragments were buried in plastic containers and were kept under controlled conditions for eight months. Half of the containers were filled with marl, and the remainder with sand. All were saturated with fresh tap water, acidified water, sulphate water, or seawater. They were kept in the dark at 23.4-26 °C, except one, which was kept in a heating chamber at 37.4°C. We expected that different burial conditions would produce distinct taphonomic outcomes. Instead, the taphonomic alterations of buried eggs parallel that of the alteration of egg proteins (i.e., denaturation and/or putrefaction) with an additional role played by the eggshell. Mummification, encrustation, distortion and fragmentation, and necrokynesis (vertical displacement) depend on organic matter decay. The experiment identifies environmental conditions that may favour or actively promote these taphonomic processes. Of these, early pyritization is one of the most relevant. For comparative purposes, samples of fossil and extinct eggshell representing three distinct environmental burial conditions were examined. These included Megaloolithus, Caiman crocodilus, and Struthio camelus ootypes. The geochemical analysis of these eggshells showed no significant differences among the chemical variables of these fossil and extant ootypes. Eggshells exhibited a stable composition over a range of experimental conditions.
Published in Vol. 32, Fasc. 2-4 (2003)