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Evolution of vertebrate viviparity and specializations for fetal nutrition: A quantitative and qualitative analysis

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ABSTRACT

Phylogenetic analyses indicate that viviparity (live-bearing reproduction) has originated independently in more than 150 vertebrate lineages, including a minimum of 115 clades of extant squamate reptiles. Other evolutionary origins of viviparity include 13 origins among bony fishes, nine among chondrichthyans, eight in amphibians, one in Paleozoic placoderms, six among extinct reptiles, and one in mammals. The origins of viviparity range geologically from the mid-Paleozoic through the Mesozoic to the Pleistocene. Substantial matrotrophy (maternal provision of nutrients to embryos during pregnancy) has arisen at least 33 times in these viviparous clades, with most (26) of these origins having occurred among fishes and amphibians. Convergent evolution in patterns of matrotrophy is widespread, as reflected by multiple independent origins of placentotrophy, histotrophy, oophagy, and embryophagy. Specializations for nutrient transfer to embryos are discontinuously distributed, reflecting the roles of phylogenetic inertia, exaptation (preadaptation), and constraint. Ancestral features that function in gas exchange and nutrition repeatedly and convergently have been co-opted for nutrient transfer, often through minor modification of their components and changes in the timing of their expression (heterochrony). Studies on functional and evolutionary morphology continue to play a central role in our attempts to understand viviparity and mechanisms of fetal nutrition. J. Morphol. 276:961–990, 2015. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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