Biomechanics and Biomimicry of Reptile Eggs: Insights into their functions and evolution

Reptile eggshells are multifunctional structures with extraordinary properties, including unique combinations of high flexibility and strength, strong water absorption and antimicrobial filtration. In this project we attempt to reproduce these extraordinary properties using natural and synthetic materials, both to test structure-function hypotheses and to produce novel, multifunctional materials.

More than 19 000 species of birds, crocodiles, turtles, lizards and snakes produce and incubate egg to successfully reproduce in a wide range of environments. Life on earth imposes a series of environmental challenges on these eggs that sometimes present conflicting or contradicting solutions: e.g. eggs have to be crack-resistant yet allow breakage from inside, be impermeable to bacteria yet breathable and in some cases allow water absorption. We can learn a lot from studying and mimicking the exceptional properties of these natural structures. A basic understanding of the morphology of these eggs is available, but little is known about the structure-function relationships in reptile eggs. Therefore, in collaboration with the Evolution and Optics of Nanostructures (EON) group (Department of Biology) the structural and chemical composition of different reptile eggshells is studied.

Biomechanics and Biomimicry of Reptile Eggs: Insights into their functions and evolution 

The multifunctionality of the eggshells is enabled by a multi-layered, hierarchical organization of simple structural components, consisting of mainly minerals and protein fibres. The similarities between the protein fibres within eggshells and nanofibrous membranes produced via electrospinning is striking. The electrospinning process is used to mimick these natural structures and to produce bio-inspired, porous membranes consisting of nanofibres of various compositions, dimensions and organizations. Further functionalization of the membranes allows to mimick some of the exceptional properties. The characterization of these man-made membranes with the same methods used for the eggshells also permits to study and understand the structure-function relationships of reptile eggshells. Finally, these novel, multifunctional materials have a high potential for multiple applications including filtration/separation technology, sensors and biomedicine.

Further information


FWO - Senior research project fundamental research G0A7921N

Collaboration with the Department of Biology – Evolution and Optics of Nanostructures (EON)


Prof. dr. ir. Karen De Clerck (