Scanning electron microscopy of the placental interface in the viviparous lizard Sceloporus jarrovi (Squamata: Phrynosomatidae)



Placental membranes mediate maternal-fetal exchange in all viviparous reptilian sauropsids. We used scanning electron microscopy to examine the placental interface in the mountain spiny lizard, Sceloporus jarrovi (Phrynosomatidae). From the late limb bud stage until birth, the conceptus is surrounded by placental membranes formed from the chorioallantois and yolk sac omphalopleure. The chorioallantois lies directly apposed to the uterine lining with no intervening shell membrane. Both fetal and maternal sides of the chorioallantoic placenta are lined by continuous layers of flattened epithelial cells that overlie dense capillary networks. The chorioallantoic placenta shows specializations that enhance respiratory exchange, as well as ultrastructural evidence of maternal secretion and fetal absorption. The yolk sac placenta contains enlarged fetal and maternal epithelia with specializations for histotrophic nutrient transfer. This placenta lacks intrinsic vascularity, although the vascular allantois lies against its inner face, contributing to an omphallantoic placenta. In a specialized region at the abembryonic pole, uterine and fetal tissues are separated by a compact mass of shed shell membrane, yolk droplets, and cellular debris. The omphalopleure in this region develops elongate folds that may contribute to sequestration and absorption of this material. Fetal membrane morphogenesis and composition in S. jarrovi are consistent with those of typical squamates. However, this species exhibits unusual placental specializations characteristic of highly placentotrophic lizards. J. Morphol., 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.