A comparative study of eggshells of Gekkota with morphological, chemical compositional and crystallographic approaches and its evolutionary implications
The Gekkota is an important clade in the evolution of calcified eggshells in that some of its families lay rigid eggshells like archosaurs. However, the fundamental differences and similarities between the mechanism of rigid eggshell formation of the Gekkota and Archosauria have not been investigated thoroughly due to the lack of knowledge of gekkotan eggshells. Here, we report for the first time a comprehensive analysis of morphological, chemical compositional, and crystallographic features of rigid and soft gekkotan eggshells. Exhaustive morphological description provided common characters for gekkotan eggshells, as well as unique features of each species. We found that elemental distribution of rigid gekkotan eggshells is different from that of avian eggshells, especially in the case of Mg and P. In addition, the crystallographic features (size, shape, and alignment of calcite grains) of gekkotan eggshells are completely different from those of archosaur eggshells. The result of this study suggests that soft gekkotan eggshells are morphologically more similar to tuatara eggshells rather than soft eggshells of derived squamates. The chemical compositional analysis suggests that the eggshell may act as a mineral reservoir for P and F as well as Ca. More importantly, all chemical compositions and crystallographic features imply that the gekkotan eggshell formation may begin at the outer surface and growing down to the inner surface, which is opposite to the direction of the archosaur eggshell formation. This character would be crucial for identifying fossil gekkotan eggs, which are poorly known in paleontology. All these lines of evidence support that soft gekkotan and tuatara eggshells share the primitive characters of all lepidosaurid eggshells. Finally, gekkotan and archosaur rigid eggshells represent a typical example of convergent evolution in the lineage of the Sauropsida.