Original Research

Morphological and histochemical observations of the organic components of ostrich eggshell

P.D.G. Richards, A. Botha, P.A. Richards
Journal of the South African Veterinary Association | Vol 73, No 1 | a542 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jsava.v73i1.542 | © 2002 P.D.G. Richards, A. Botha, P.A. Richards | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 July 2002 | Published: 05 July 2002

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P.D.G. Richards,
A. Botha,
P.A. Richards,

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The organic component of the avian eggshell can be divided into 3 portions, the shell membranes, the matrix and the cuticle. These have been well characterised in the chicken but little has been published with regard to the ostrich (Struthio camelus). A number of recent studies have indicated that the cause of intra-shell embryonic deaths in the ostrich is similar to intra-shell embryonic deaths that occur in the chicken. These deaths in the chicken are associated with the loss of or damage to the waxy cuticle and other organic components of the eggshell, which is reported to be absent in the ostrich eggshell. In this study, preliminary morphological and histochemical analyses, at the level of the light and electron microscope, have characterised the various organic components of the ostrich eggshell. The results of the histochemical and electron microscopical analyses suggest that there mayonly be 1 shell membrane in this species, which could play a major role in the limitation of bacterial penetration to the embryonic chamber. The shell membrane has a distinct elemental profile as determined by EDSanalysis. The matrix is shown to decrease in mesh size from the mammillary layer to the vertical crystal layer. The closer packing of the mesh may indicate the presence of a morphologically discernible termination signal to calcification or the remnants of an evolutionary calcified cuticle. The matrix of the pores may also forma defensive barrier against bacterial invasion, which could be damaged as a result of dipping the eggs before incubation.


Glycoconjugate; Histocytochemistry; Lectins; Ratite; Ultrastructure


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