Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Zool. 1993 Sep 1;266(6):629-41.

Embryonic diapause in vertebrates.

Author information

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow 83843.


Embryonic diapause occurs in many species of vertebrates, but the physiological mechanisms which control this fascinating process are exceedingly different in the diverse groups which employ this reproductive strategy. In nonmammalian species and some bats, reduction in rate of embryonic development is temperature dependent, but this is not the case in most mammals. Development becomes arrested at the blastocyst stage of embryogenesis in mammals which exhibit delayed implantation, whereas postimplantation development is continuous but retarded in species exhibiting delayed development. The hormonal control of diapause is remarkably different in the various species. Pituitary secretion of prolactin prevents implantation in the tammar wallaby but hastens renewed development and implantation in the mink and spotted skunk. Ovariectomy results in the eventual death of blastocysts in mustelids but induces renewed development and implantation in the armadillo. Luteal function, as evidenced by elevated progesterone secretion, is essentially constant in the roe deer and armadillo, whereas the luteal cells fail to complete their differentiation and secrete low levels of progesterone in carnivores. Progesterone will induce implantation in the tammar wallaby, but estrogen is required to induce renewed development and implantation in rodents. Neither progesterone and/or estrogens appear to be capable of stimulating implantation in carnivores. The uterus plays an important role in maintaining the embryos in a viable state throughout the period of diapause. In many species the uterus undergoes histological changes and secretes increased amounts of protein, yet we still do not understand the role, if any, these proteins play in initiating renewed embryonic development. Thus the phenomenon of embryonic diapause still holds many mysteries for scientists to solve.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center