Michael Bunce and graduate student Charlotte Oskam at Murdoch University, Western Australia, collected fragments of fossil eggshells from Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, museum collections, and excavation sites. The shells included fragments from eggs of extinct moas (Pleistocene era), extinct elephant birds (Holocene era), as well as ducks, emu, and owl. Both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA were extracted successfully. Astonishingly, the moa eggshell had only 1/125 the bacterial contamination typical of fossil bone samples. The quality of DNA preservation pointed to fossil eggshells as excellent ancient DNA sources, even in warm climates.
Did you know? In 2013, a partially fossilized elephant-bird egg from Madagascar was sold by Christie's auction house for $101,813.