As a result of several years of screen-washing activity, a remarkable assemblage of eggshell fragments has been recovered from the Late Cretaceous vertebrate locality of Iharkút, Hungary. Detailed investigation of the assemblage by multiple visualization techniques (scanning electron microscopy, polarizing light microscopy, X-ray micro-computed tomography), quantitative morphometric analyses, and micro X-ray fluorescence spectrometry revealed a diverse composition of five different eggshell morphotypes (MT I-MT V) and three subcategories within the second morphotype (MT II/a, b, c), with MT I being by far the most abundant (83%) in the assemblage. MT I, MT III, and MT V represent theropod dinosaurian eggshells, whereas MT II and MT IV show characteristics of crocodilian and squamate eggshells, respectively. Hence, despite their fragmentary nature, these eggshells represent the first clear evidence that various sauropsid taxa had nesting sites near the ancient fluvial system of Iharkút. Besides the implied taxonomic diversity, two unique features add to the significance of this eggshell assemblage. First, it contains the thinnest rigid crocodilian (MT II/c) and squamate (MT IV) eggshells ever reported. Moreover, one of the identified theropod morphotypes, MT I, is also among the thinnest fossil dinosaurian eggshells, the thinness of which is only rivalled by the eggshells of the smallest Mesozoic avian eggs known to date. Second, the Iharkút eggshell assemblage consists exclusively of thin eggshells (≤300 μm), a condition unknown from any other fossil eggshell assemblages described to date. Combined with the knowledge acquired from skeletal remains, these peculiarities give additional insights into the paleoecology of the terrestrial sauropsid fauna once inhabiting the ancient island of Iharkút. Finally, the presence of well-preserved eggshells recovered from two different sites representing different depositional environments provides further evidence for previous taphonomic and sedimentological conclusions, and also expands our knowledge of the special conditions that allowed the preservation of these delicate eggshell fragments.
- Dinosaurian and crocodilian eggshells
- Eggshell assemblage
- Late Cretaceous
- Thin sections
ASJC Scopus subject areas