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Allen W.R.T.,The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction
Animal Reproduction Science | Year: 2010

Genus-specific reproductive processes and strategies displayed by equids, camelids and elephantids are compared and contrasted to illustrate the amazing diversity of reproductive physiology between genera and the equally surprising conservation of reproductive processes across a genus in the face of other dramatic phenotypic modifications and adaptation to prosper in the prevailing environment. From intrauterine conceptus mobility and chorionic gonadotrophic secretion by specialised invasive trophoblast cells in equids, through induced ovulation, an asymmetrical uterus and an almost absurdly short dioestrous interval in camelids, to intrabdominal testes, the testosterone-driven expression of musth and a very tenuous intrauterine attachment of the placenta in elephantids, reproductive physiology remains a discipline of great fascination and academic merit with much yet to be discovered and understood across the whole mammalian kingdom. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. Source


Wilsher S.,The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction
Equine veterinary journal. Supplement | Year: 2012

The development of the equine placenta involves a series of stage-specific events which ensure that the fetus is nourished throughout its 11 months of gestation. Initially, placental exchange to the developing embryo is histotrophic, via the yolk sac but, as the allantochorion develops and microcotyledons form, haemotrophic nutrition plays the major role in sustaining the increasing demands of the growing fetus. This review describes the development of the allantochorionic placenta of the mare and discusses some of the factors that influence its growth, size and functions and, hence, its control of fetal growth and maturation. Source


Hautier L.,University of Cambridge | Stansfield F.J.,The Elephant Research Unit | Twink Allen W.R.,The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction | Asher R.J.,University of Cambridge
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2012

We provide here unique data on elephant skeletal ontogeny. We focus on the sequence of cranial and post-cranial ossification events during growth in the African elephant (Loxodonta africana). Previous analyses on ossification sequences in mammals have focused on monotremes, marsupials, boreoeutherian and xenarthran placentals. Here, we add data on ossification sequences in an afrotherian. We use two different methods to quantify sequence heterochrony: the sequence method and event-paring/Parsimov. Compared with other placentals, elephants show late ossifications of the basicranium, manual and pedal phalanges, and early ossifications of the ischium and metacarpals. Moreover, ossification in elephants starts very early and progresses rapidly. Specifically, the elephant exhibits the same percentage of bones showing an ossification centre at the end of the first third of its gestation period as the mouse and hamster have close to birth. Elephants show a number of features of their ossification patterns that differ from those of other placental mammals. The pattern of the initiation of the ossification evident in the African elephant underscores a possible correlation between the timing of ossification onset and gestation time throughout mammals. @ 2012 The Royal Society. Source


Veronesi M.C.,University of Milan | Villani M.,University of Milan | Villani M.,University Utrecht | Wilsher S.,The Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction | And 2 more authors.
Theriogenology | Year: 2010

The aim of the study was to compare horse and donkey placentae using stereological techniques. Term placentae were collected at spontaneous foaling from seven Thoroughbred mares, seven pony mares, and six jenny donkeys. Maternal and foal weights were recorded and the mass, volume, and gross area of each allantochorion was also recorded. Ten random biopsies were recovered and processed for light microscopy from which the surface density of the microcotyledons (Sv) and the total microscopic area of fetomaternal contact were calculated stereologically. Gestation length was longer in the donkeys than the other two groups (median values: 371 vs. 327 and 341 days, P < 0.05). There were significant correlations between foal birthweight and gross area (rho = 0.89; n = 20; P < 0.05), mass (rho = 0.84; n = 20; P < 0.05) and volume (rho = 0.89; n = 20; P < 0.05) of the allantochorion. Sv was higher in the donkey placenta than the other groups (median values: 0.05 vs. 0.03 and 0.04 μm-1, P < 0.05) although placental efficiency was lower in the donkeys (median values: 0.87 vs. 1.33 and 1.32 kg/m2, P < 0.01). The results of the study confirmed that, although strong morphological similarities exist between the allantochorion of the horse and donkey, that of the donkey develops more complex microcotyledons, as judged stereologically, and exhibits a lower placental efficiency. These differences may be related to maternal genotype and/or the longer gestation length shown by the donkey compared to the horse, but a negative correlation (rho = -0.92, P < 0.01) was also found between age and placental efficiency in donkeys. © 2010. Source


Lehmann J.,University of Leipzig | Ellenberger C.,University of Leipzig | Hoffmann C.,University of Leipzig | Bazer F.W.,Texas A&M University | And 4 more authors.
Theriogenology | Year: 2011

The aim of the present study was to characterize the morpho-functional features of endometrosis in barren and foaling mares, using both conventional histopathological and immunohistochemical methods. Endometrial biopsy samples were collected during the physiological breeding season from 159 estrous, clinically healthy mares (mean age 12 years), and the quality and degree of endometrosis was histomorphologically defined. The mares were bred and those that foaled were put in the foaling group whereas those that did not foal were placed in the barren group. Foaling mares were then compared with barren mares. Sixty-four percent (101/159) of uterine samples showed varying degrees of endometrosis and were used for this study. The sample population consisted of 51 barren and 50 foaling mares suffering from endometrosis. Expression of steroid hormone receptors (estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor) and endometrial protein secretion patterns (uteroglobin [UG], uterocalin [UC], calbindin D9k [CAL], uteroferrin [UF]) was evaluated by immunohistochemistry (barren mares N = 51, foaling mares N = 31). In comparison with unaffected glands, fibrotic glands generally showed a cycle-asynchronous, partially patchy protein expression pattern which is interpreted as a sign of endometrial maldifferentiation within fibrotic areas. In barren mares (N = 51) more than half of biopsy samples (27/51) showed a destructive mostly moderate (20/27) type of endometrosis. In affected glands, staining for UG (17/21) was decreased (P < 0.001). Foaling mares (N = 50) frequently showed a mild, nondestructive endometrosis (35/50). Compared with barren mares, foaling mares had statistically (P < 0.05) more often a cycle-synchronous or increased UG expression pattern within fibrotic glands. Obvious deviations of either UG or UC rarely occurred. Within fibrotic foci, UF often demonstrated a cycle-synchronous or more intense expression pattern in both foaling (28/31) and barren mares (41/51), compared with healthy glands. Mares of both groups showed a cycle-asynchronous staining for estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor in the stromal cells in areas of periglandular fibrosis and the glandular epithelia. These findings indicate that affected areas become independent of the uterine control mechanisms and exhibit specific differentiation dynamics. Immunohistochemical investigations showed that the secretory patterns differ between barren and foaling mares. The findings in this study should be considered as a useful addition to the "classical" Kenney categorization. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. Source

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