Biomineralization in modern avian calcified eggshells: similarity versus diversity.
Avian eggshells are composed of several layers made of organic compounds and a mineral phase (calcite), and the general structure is basically the same in all species. A comparison of the structure, crystallography, and chemical composition shows that despite an overall similarity, each species has its own structure, crystallinity, and composition. Eggshells are a perfect example of the crystallographic versus biological concept of the formation and growth mechanisms of calcareous biominerals: the spherulitic-columnar structure is described as "a typical case of competitive crystal growth", but it is also said that the eggshell matrix components regulate eggshell mineralization. Electron back scattered diffraction (EBSD) analyses show that the crystallinity differs between different species. Nevertheless, the three layers are composed of rounded granules, and neither facets nor angles are visible. In-situ analyses show the heterogeneous distribution of chemical elements throughout the thickness of single eggshell. The presence of organic matrices other than the outer and inner membranes in eggshells is confirmed by thermograms and infrared spectrometry, and the differences in quality and quantity depend on the species. Thus, as in other biocrystals, crystal growth competition is not enough to explain these differences, and there is a strong biological control of the eggshell secretion.