Embryonic specializations for vertebrate placentation

Camilla M. Whittington*, Alice L. Buddle, Oliver W. Griffith, Anthony M. Carter

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    The vertebrate placenta, a close association of fetal and parental tissue for physiological exchange, has evolved independently in sharks, teleost fishes, coelacanths, amphibians, squamate reptiles and mammals. This transient organ forms during pregnancy and is an important contributor to embryonic development in both viviparous and oviparous, brooding species. Placentae may be involved in transport of respiratory gases, wastes, immune molecules, hormones and nutrients. Depending on the taxon, the embryonic portion of the placenta is comprised of either extraembryonic membranes (yolk sac or chorioallantois) or temporary embryonic tissues derived via hypertrophy of pericardium, gill epithelium, gut, tails or fins. These membranes and tissues have been recruited convergently into placentae in several lineages. Here, we highlight the diversity and common features of embryonic tissues involved in vertebrate placentation and suggest future studies that will provide new knowledge about the evolution of pregnancy. This article is part of the theme issue 'Extraembryonic tissues: exploring concepts, definitions and functions across the animal kingdom'.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20210261
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1865
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2022


    • brooding
    • embryonic development
    • matrotrophy
    • parental care
    • pregnancy
    • viviparity


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