Eggshell composition of squamate reptiles: Relationship between eggshell permeability and amino acid distribution

Owen J. Sexton, Judith E. Bramble, I. Lorraine Heisler, Christopher A. Phillips, David L. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Most snakes and lizards produce eggs with flexible shells that interact with the environment to maintain water balance. Geckos produce rigid eggshells that are independent of an external source of water and can be oviposited in more open, dryer locations. In this study, we analyzed and compared the amino acid composition of 24 lizard species, six snake species, and four outgroups (including avian and reptilian elastin and chicken eggshell). Rigid Gecko eggshells had significantly lower levels of seven of the 17 amino acids evaluated. Multivariate analysis showed that proline was the most important amino acid in distinguishing between these two groups of eggshells, occurring at significantly higher levels in flexible eggshells. High levels of proline have also been observed in the eggshells of other species. Proline and other amino acids are associated with the alleviation of water and salt stress in plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2391-2401
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005



  • Amino acid analysis
  • Eggshells
  • Proline
  • Squamate reptiles
  • Water relations
  • Water-soil relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry

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