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Abstract

Birds and many reptiles are egg-layers. Birds provide calcium for the formation of eggshells by resorbing medullary bone, which is laid down before ovulation. Turtles do not possess this mechanism and resorb structural bone to form eggshells. Femora from three groups of alligators (egg-laying females; quiescent, immature, or barren females; and males) were examined to determine if alligators, which are closely related to birds in evolution, resorb structural bone during the formation of eggshells as do turtles. Microradiographs of cross sections from femoral mid-shafts were analyzed for porosity, and the robusticity index of each femur was determined. Scanning electron micrographs of anorganic endosteal and periosteal femoral surfaces were analyzed to determine numbers of entrances of vascular canals, numbers of lacunae of osteoblasts, and types of femoral surfaces. Femora from egg-laying females were significantly less robust than those of other females or males, and sections of bone from the egg-layers were significantly more porous than those of the other groups. Scanning electron microscopy of anorganic femoral endosteal surfaces from egg-laying females revealed significantly more resorption areas when compared with males or non egg-laying females. Periosteal surfaces from egg-layers had significantly more resting and less bone-forming surface than those from the other groups. Results indicated that apposition of periosteal bone may have been reduced in egg-layers and that egg-laying alligators, like turtles, resorb endosteal structural bone, which may be used as a source of calcium for the formation of eggshells.