Variation in gestation length in mammals

Developmental biology: Placenta key to fetal growth rate

Nature 468, page 603 (02 December 2010)


Gestation period varies widely in the mammalian world, with some species developing twice as fast as others in the womb. This is largely because of differences in the arrangement of fetal and maternal tissues in the placenta.

Isabella Capellini at Durham University, UK, and her team analysed data from previous studies on neonatal brain mass, body and litter size, and maternal placental morphology from 109 mammalian species. They discovered that animals with placentas where fetal and maternal tissues interlock the most — creating a greater surface area over which nutrients can flow — gestate in less than half the time taken by animals that have placentas with a minimal surface area for nutrient exchange.

Note: The original study was published in The American Naturalist. Reference below

vol. 177, no. 1 The American Naturalist January 2011

Placentation and Maternal Investment in Mammals


Isabella Capellini,1,* Chris Venditti,2 and Robert A. Barton11. Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Dawson Building, South Road,Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom; 2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Philip Lyle Building, Reading RG6 6BX,United Kingdom


About sociogenomics

I study behaviour and evolution. This space is about sharing with others notable (and sometimes unexpected) findings that relate to my own scientific interests and research.
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