Polyclonal antibodies were raised against the extracellular coats (mucoid and shell membrane) of unfertilized oocytes and early embryos of a dasyurid marsupial, the fat‐tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata). Indirect immunofluorescence was used to test the specificity of the antibodies to the shell membrane. Streptavidin/biotin immunoperoxidase cytochemistry revealed that precursors of the tertiary egg membranes are secreted by the luminal epithelium of the ampulla, isthmus (including the crypts), utero‐tubal junction, and adjacent endometrial glands. Histochemistry distinguished between the sites of mucoid and shell membrane precursor secretion. The mucoid coat stained positively with Alcian blue at pH 1.0 and 2.5, with Alcian blue at pH 0.2 after performic acid oxidation, and with PAS which was amylase resistant. Some of the luminal epithelial cells of the ampulla and isthmus, as well as its crypts, also stained positively by these histochemical methods but the luminal epithelium of the utero‐tubal junction and endometrial glands were negative for all methods. The shell membrane did not stain with any of the above methods nor with dihydroxy‐dinapthyl‐disulphide (DDD) or ferric ferricyanide but it was eosinophilic and stained positively with the red cytoplasmic stain of Masson's trichrome. Therefore, it is concluded that shell membrane precursors are secreted by the luminal epithelium of the utero‐tubal junction, adjacent glands, and by scattered glands in the anterior region of the uterus but not by any cell population of the oviduct. © 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.