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Biol Reprod. 2003 Mar;68(3):929-36.

Maternal regulation of milk composition, milk production, and pouch young development during lactation in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii ).

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Division of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Victorian Institute of Animal Science, Attwood, Victoria 3049, Australia.


Specific changes in milk composition during lactation in the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) were correlated with the ages of the developing pouch young (PY). The present experiment was designed to test the hypothesis that the sucking pattern of the PY determines the course of mammary development in the tammar wallaby. To test this hypothesis, groups of 60-day-old PY were fostered repeatedly onto one group of host mothers so that a constant sucking stimulus on the mammary gland was maintained for 56 days to allow the lactational stage to progress 42 days ahead of the age of the young. Analysis of the milk in fostered and control groups showed the timing of changes in the concentration of protein and carbohydrate were essentially unaffected by altering the sucking regime. The only change in milk protein secretion was a small delay in the timing of down-regulation of the secretion of whey acidic protein and early lactation protein in the host tammars. In addition, the rates of growth and development of the foster PY were significantly increased relative to those of the control PY because of ingesting more milk with a higher energy content and different composition than normal for their age. The present study demonstrates that the lactating tammar wallaby regulates both milk composition and the rate of milk production and that these determine the rates of PY growth and development, irrespective of the age of the PY.

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