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Evolution of placentation among squamate reptiles: recent research and future directions.

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A Molecular & Integrative Physiology
1095-6433
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
127
Issue
4
Pages
411–431
Identifiers
PMID: 11154939
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Squamate reptiles are uniquely suited to study of evolution of reproductive mode and pattern of embryonic nutrition. Viviparous species have evolved from oviparous ancestors on numerous occasions, patterns of nutritional provision to embryos range widely from lecithotrophy, at one end of a continuum, to placentotrophy at the other, and structure and function of the maternal-embryonic relationship is highly constrained resulting in parallel evolutionary trajectories among taxa. Embryos of oviparous species primarily receive nourishment from yolk, but also mobilize a significant quantity of calcium from the eggshell. Most viviparous species also are predominantly lecithotrophic, yet all viviparous species are placentotrophic to some degree. Similarities in embryonic development and nutritional pattern between oviparous species and most viviparous species suggest that the pattern of nutrition of oviparous squamates is an exaptation for the evolution of viviparity and that placentotrophy and viviparity evolve concomitantly. The few species of squamates that rely substantially on placentotrophy have structural modifications of the interface between the embryo and mother that are interpreted as adaptations to enhance nutritional exchange. Recent studies have extended understanding of the diversity of embryonic nutrition and placental structure and have resulted in hypotheses for transitions in the evolution of placentotrophy, yet data are available for few species. Indirect tests of these hypotheses, by comparison of structural-functional relationships among clades in which viviparity has evolved, awaits further study of the reproductive biology of squamates.

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