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Comparison of nutrient transport across the placenta of lizards differing in placental complexity.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences and Wildlife Research Institute, Heydon-Laurence Building (A08), University of Sydney, 2006, NSW, Australia.


We have reviewed published and new quantitative data on the net uptake of nutrients by embryos of oviparous and viviparous lizards that vary in chorioallantoic placental complexity to better understand the evolution of complex placentae. We assessed net nutrient uptake during embryonic development by measuring the total dry mass, or the mass of separate nutrients, in the egg at about the time of ovulation and in the neonate. There is no significant difference in the fresh egg to neonate dry mass ratio of oviparous and viviparous species that have simple placentae, indicating that there is little, if any, net uptake of nutrients by viviparous species with simple chorioallantoic placentae. In contrast, there is significant uptake of dry matter and individual nutrients across the placenta of species with complex chorioallantoic placentae. Species of the genus Niveoscincus have a range of placentae and nutrient uptakes, even among populations of one species, suggesting that further studies among populations of single species are required. Data are available for relatively few clades, and all the data for the three most complex chorioallantoic placental types are derived from a single genus. Thus, further research on new genera of lizards is required to overcome the potentially confounding effects of phylogeny in our analyses.

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