Abstract

The interpretation of fossil eggshells can be problematic because eggshells may be transported by hydraulic flow in floodplains, making it difficult to interpret the reproductive behavior and ecology of parent animals. A series of flume studies was conducted to establish analytical techniques for assessing eggshell hydraulic transport in the fossil record. We investigated preferred eggshell orientation after transport, the relationship of flow competence with eggshell height and volume, and the size of clastic sediment expected to be associated with transported eggshells. Goose, emu, and ostrich eggshell fragments were released in a flume with decelerating flow. The transport of each eggshell was observed five times on each of four substrates (coarse sand, sparse gravel, dense gravel, and polyvinyl chloride). At eggshell deposition, eggshell orientation and flow depths were recorded. Critical bed shear stress for eggshell deposition was estimated based on the flow depth at the point of eggshell deposition, tested relative to eggshell height and volume, and used to estimate the size of hydraulically equivalent particles. The probability of concave-down orientation after transport was > 85% regardless of eggshell type or substrate. The bed shear stress at eggshell deposition reflected the eggshell height and volume. The estimated size of hydraulically equivalent particles was coarse sand or larger. A high proportion of concave-down eggshells in a fossil assemblage may indicate transport. In addition, eggshells may be sorted according to their height and volume. Coarse sand or larger particles observed in a matrix of fossil eggshells may suggest eggshell transport.

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