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Type: Journal article
Title: Avian embryonic development does not change the stable isotope composition of the calcite eggshell
Author: Maurer, G.
Portugal, S.
Boomer, I.
Cassey, P.
Citation: Reproduction Fertility and Development, 2011; 23(2):339-345
Publisher: C S I R O Publishing
Issue Date: 2011
ISSN: 1031-3613
Statement of
G. Maurer, S. J. Portugal, I. Boomer, and P. Cassey
Abstract: The avian embryo resorbs most of the calcium for bone formation from the calcite eggshell but the exact mechanisms of the resorption are unknown. The present study tested whether this process results in variable fractionation of the oxygen and carbon isotopes in shell calcium carbonate, which could provide a detailed insight into the temporal and spatial use of the eggshell by the developing embryo. Despite the uncertainty regarding changes in stable isotope composition of the eggshell across developmental stages or regions of the shell, eggshells are a popular resource for the analysis of historic and extant trophic relationships. To clarify how the stable isotope composition varies with embryonic development, the δ13C and δ18O content of the carbonate fraction in shells of black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) eggs were sampled at four different stages of embryonic development and at five eggshell regions. No consistent relationship between the stable isotope composition of the eggshell and embryonic development, shell region or maculation was observed, although shell thickness decreased with development in all shell regions. By contrast, individual eggs differed significantly in isotope composition. These results establish that eggshells can be used to investigate a species’ carbon and oxygen sources, regardless of the egg’s developmental stage.
Keywords: black-headed gull; calcium resorption; carbon isotopes; maculation; oxygen isotopes; shell thickness.
Rights: © CSIRO 2011
RMID: 0020108017
DOI: 10.1071/RD10138
Appears in Collections:Earth and Environmental Sciences publications
Environment Institute Leaders publications

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