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The current molecular phylogeny of Eutherian mammals challenges previous interpretations of placental evolution.

By P. Vogel


Based on histology, the placentae of eutherians are currently grouped in epitheliochorial, endotheliochorial and haemochorial placentae. In a haeckelian sense, the epitheliochorial contact with marked histiotrophic feeding by uterine milk is generally considered as primitive, especially since similar contacts exist in Marsupials. In contrast, the more intimate endotheliochorial and haemochorial contact, facilitating haemotrophic nutrition, is interpreted as a derived state. A cladistic analysis based on the phylogenetic relationships established by molecular analyses reveals that the basic clades are all characterized by an endotheliochorial or haemochorial placenta, and that the epitheliochorial placenta evolved at least three times in a convergent manner. This evolution may be explained by the fact that the epitheliochorial placenta in eutherians is more efficient in nutritional transfer (flow rate by exchange surface). Moreover, this arrangement may confer an advantage to the mother who can probably reduce the degree of manipulation by a genetically imprinted embryo

Topics: Animals; Evolution, Molecular; Female; Genomic Imprinting; Mammals/anatomy & histology; Mammals/classification; Maternal-Fetal Exchange/physiology; Phylogeny; Placenta/anatomy & histology; Placenta/physiology; Pregnancy
Publisher: 'Elsevier BV'
Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.placenta.2004.11.005
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