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Reprod Fertil Dev. 2007;19(8):976-83.

Perturbed growth and development in marsupial young after reciprocal cross-fostering between species.

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Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.


Cross-fostering of marsupial young between species can potentially facilitate propagation of endangered or rare marsupial species by artificially increasing the number of progeny produced. The present study compares the growth and development of normal and cross-fostered tammar and parma wallabies. Tammars cross-fostered into the pouches of parmas grew at a similar rate to naturally reared tammar young and had developmental milestones at a similar age. However, parma young cross-fostered between the day of birth and 15 days post-partum into tammars that were carrying young of equivalent developmental stages did not grow normally and were lost from the pouch. Parma young cross-fostered at 30 days survived, but had significantly reduced growth rates and their developmental milestones were delayed compared with normally reared parma young. Thus, growth can be affected by cross-fostering, even between species like tammars and parmas that are of similar size and have similar lactation lengths. The results of the present study suggest that maternal milk regulates the timing of development of each species and a mis-match in the time that each young receives critical milk components can have a marked effect on their growth and development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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