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Title: Eggshell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Egg (food), Egg, List of egg dishes, Eggs, List of egg topics
Collection: Animal Reproductive System, Eggs, Zoology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A broken wild bird eggshell

An eggshell is the outer covering of a hard-shelled egg and of some forms of eggs with soft outer coats. Bird eggshells contain calcium carbonate and dissolve in various acids, including the vinegar used in cooking. While dissolving, the calcium carbonate in an egg shell reacts with the acid to form carbon dioxide. [1]


  • Diversity 1
    • Insect eggs 1.1
    • Fish, amphibian and reptile eggs 1.2
    • Bird eggs 1.3
      • Environmental issues 1.3.1
    • Mammal eggs 1.4
    • Egg teeth 1.5
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


Insect eggs

Butterfly embryo / caterpillar visible through transparent eggshell

Insects and other arthropods lay a variety of styles and shapes of eggs. Some have gelatinous or skin-like coverings, others have hard eggshells. Softer shells are mostly protein. It may be fibrous or quite liquid. Some arthropod eggs do not actually have shells, rather, their outer covering is actually the outermost embryonic membrane, the choroid, which serves to protect inner layers. The choroid itself can be a complex structure, and it may have different layers within it. It may have an outermost layer called an exochorion. Eggs which must survive in dry conditions usually have hard eggshells, made mostly of dehydrated or mineralized proteins with pore systems to allow respiration. Arthropod eggs can have extensive ornamentation on their outer surfaces.

Fish, amphibian and reptile eggs

Fish and amphibians generally lay eggs which are surrounded by the extraembryonic membranes but do not develop a shell, hard or soft, around these membranes. Some fish and amphibian eggs have thick, leathery coats, especially if they must withstand physical force or desiccation. These type of eggs can also be very small and fragile.

While many reptiles lay eggs with flexible, calcified, eggshells, there are some that lay hard eggs. Eggs laid by snakes generally have leathery shells which often adhere to one another. Depending on the species, turtles and tortoises lay hard or soft eggs. Several species lay eggs which are nearly indistinguishable from bird eggs.

Bird eggs


  • Fossil eggshells
  • Eggshell

External links

  • Kilner, R. M. (2006). "The evolution of egg colour and patterning in birds". Biological Reviews 81 (3): 383–406.  

Further reading

  1. ^ "Q & A: Eggshells in Vinegar - What happened? | Department of Physics | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign". 2007-10-22. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  2. ^ Arias, J. L.; Fernandez, M. S. (2001). "Role of extracellular matrix molecules in shell formation and structure". World's Poultry Science Journal 57: 349–357.  
  3. ^ Nys, Yves; Gautron, Joël; Garcia-Ruiz, Juan M.; Hincke, Maxwell T. (2004). "Avian eggshell mineralization: biochemical and functional characterization of matrix proteins". Comptes Rendus Palevol 3: 549–62.  
  4. ^ a b c Hunton, P (2005). "Research on eggshell structure and quality: an historical overview". Revista Brasileira de Ciência Avícola 7: 67–71.  
  5. ^ Romanoff, A.L., A.J. Romanoff (1949) The avian egg. New York, Wiley.
  6. ^ Burley, R.W., D.V. Vadehra (1989) The Avian Egg: Chemistry and Biology. New York, Wiley.
  7. ^ Lavelin, I; Meiri, N; Pines, M (2000). "New insight in eggshell formation". Poultry science 79 (7): 1014–7.  
  8. ^ Wyburn, GM; Johnston, HS; Draper, MH; Davidson, MF (1973). "The ultrastructure of the shell forming region of the oviduct and the development of the shell of Gallus domesticus". Quarterly journal of experimental physiology and cognate medical sciences 58 (2): 143–51.  
  9. ^ Fernandez, MS; Araya, M; Arias, JL (1997). "Eggshells are shaped by a precise spatio-temporal arrangement of sequentially deposited macromolecules". Matrix biology 16 (1): 13–20.  
  10. ^ "The Egg-Shell Microstructure Studied by Powder Diffraction". Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Hecht J: Eggshells break into collagen market. New Scientist 1999, 161:6-6.
  13. ^ Daengprok W, Garnjanagoonchorn W, Mine Y: Fermented pork sausage fortified with commercial or hen eggshell calcium lactate. Meat Science 2002, 62:199-204.
  14. ^ Wei Z, Li B, Xu C: Application of waste eggshell as low-cost solid catalyst for biodiesel production [electronic resource]. Bioresource technology 2009, 100:2883-2885.
  15. ^ "What is Egg Shell Quality and How to Preserve It". Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  16. ^ "doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2004.08.002" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-16. 


See also

Hatching birds, amphibian and egg-laying reptiles have an egg-tooth used to start an exit hole in the hard eggshell.[15][16]

Egg teeth

Monotremes, egg-laying mammals, lay soft-shelled eggs similar to those of reptiles. The shell is deposited on the egg in layers within the uterus. The egg can take up fluids and grow in size during this process, and the final, most rigid layer is not added until the egg is full-size.

Mammal eggs

The US food industry generates 150,000 tons of shell waste a year.[12] The disposal methods for waste eggshells are 26.6% as fertilizer, 21.1% as animal feed ingredients, 26.3% discarded in municipal dumps, and 15.8% used in other ways.[13] Many landfills are unwilling to take the waste because the shells and the attached membrane attract vermin. Together the calcium carbonate eggshell and protein rich membrane are useless.[14] Recent inventions have allowed for the egg cracking industry to separate the eggshell from the eggshell membrane. The eggshell is mostly made up of calcium carbonate and the membrane is valuable protein. When separated both products have an array of uses.

Environmental issues

In an average laying hen, the process of shell formation takes around 20 hours. Pigmentation is added to the shell by papillae lining the oviduct, coloring it any of a variety of colors and patterns depending on species. Since eggs are usually laid blunt end first, that end is subjected to most pressure during its passage and consequently shows the most color.

While the bulk of eggshell is made of calcium carbonate, it is now thought that the protein matrix has an important role to play in eggshell strength.[11] These proteins affect crystallization, which in turn affects the eggshell structure. Moreover, the concentration of eggshell proteins decreases over the life of the laying hen, as does eggshell strength.

The fibrous chicken shell membranes are added in the proximal (white) isthmus of the oviduct.[4] In the distal (red) isthmus mammillae or mammillary knobs are deposited on the surface of the outer membrane in a regular array pattern.[8][9] The mammillae are proteoglycan-rich and are thought to control calcification. In the shell gland (similar to a mammalian uterus), mineralization starts at the mammillae. The shell gland fluid contains very high levels of calcium and hydrogen carbonate. The thick calcified layer of the eggshell forms in columns from the mammillae structures, and is known as the palisade layer. Between these palisade columns are narrow pores that traverse the eggshell and allow gaseous exchange. The cuticle forms the final, outer layer of the eggshell.[10]

Structure revealed by light
Brown chicken egg with irregular calcification

[4]. Eggshell formation requires gram amounts of calcium being deposited within hours, which must be supplied via the hen’s diet.embryogenesis The structure and composition of the avian eggshell serves to protect the egg against damage and microbial contamination, prevention of desiccation, regulation of gas and water exchange for the growing embryo, and provides calcium for [7][6][5]

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