FERNANDEZ Mariela Soledad
Irregularly calcified eggs and eggshells of Caiman latirostris (Alligatoridae: Crocodylia)
MARIELA SOLEDAD FERNÁNDEZ; MELINA SOLEDAD SIMONCINI; GARETH DYKE
Lugar: Berlin; Año: 2013 vol. 100 p. 451 - 457
We describe irregularly calcified egg and eggshell morphologies for the first time in nests of the Broad-snouted Caiman, Caiman latirostris. Research is based on detailed descriptions of 270 eggs from a total sample of 46,800 collected between 2005 and 2011 in Santa Fe Province, Argentina, and encompasses animals from both natural habitats and held in captivity. We discuss possible reasons for the occurrence of eggs with different mineralisation patterns in our extensive C. latirostris field sample and its conservation significance; the chemistry of egg-laying in amniotes is sensitive to environmental contamination which, in turn, has biological implications. Based on our egg sample we identify two caiman eggshell abnormalities: (1) Regularly calcified eggs with either calcitic nodules or superficial wrinkles at one egg end, and; (2) Irregularly calcified eggs with structural gaps that weaken the shell. Some recently laid clutches we examined included eggs with most of the shell broken and detached from the flexible membrane. Most Type 1 regularly calcified eggs lost their initial calcified nodules during incubation, suggesting that these deposits do not affect embryo survival rates. In contrast, irregularly calcified caiman eggs have a mean hatching success rate of 8.9 % (range 0-38%) across our sample compared to a mean normal success of 75%. Most irregularly calcified caiman eggs probably die because of infections caused by fungi and bacteria in the organic nest material although another possible explanation that merits further investigation could be an increase in permeability, leading to embryo dehydration.