Shear stresses experienced by eggs in the oviduct of the echinoid Arbacia punctulata during spawning were calculated using engineering equations that describe laminar flow through pipes. Shear stresses in the oviduct ranged from 0 to 58.7 Pa. Two properties of eggs were identified that have the potential either to minimize the shear stress in the oviduct or to reduce the damage experienced by eggs exposed to high shear stress. These properties are the viscosity of the eggs and the presence of extracellular layers on eggs of A. punctulata. The viscosity of eggs decreases with increasing shear rates, which reduces the magnitude of shear stress experienced in the oviduct, while the extracellular layers mitigate the effect of shear stress on the eggs. Eggs with intact extracellular layers were damaged less frequently than were those with the extracellular layers removed. The results of this research indicate that physical stresses may be important selective factors in the evolution of gamete properties.

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