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Keywords:

  • Marsupial;
  • Gestation;
  • Embryogenesis

Abstract

The timing of development was examined in 496 embryos from female Monodelphis domestica, collected at known time intervals after video recorded mating. Ovulation occurred approximately 20 hr (day 1) after mating, and fertilization was observed by 24 hr. Transport through the oviducts was rapid, and pronuclear stage embryos were recovered from the uterus as early as 24 hr after mating. Second cleavage had occurred by 55 hr after mating. Three-celled embryos were among those collected on day 3 after mating, indicating that asynchronous cleavage of blastomeres can occur from the two-cell stage. The four-cell stage persisted for approximately 24 hr, and embryos that had undergone third cleavage were first recovered 74 hr after mating. Embryos that had undergone fourth to fifth cleavage were found 96–100 hr (4 days) after mating and complete unilaminar blastocysts by 5.5 days after mating. Primary endoderm formed from an already distinct embryonic area of the unilaminar blastocyst early on day 7 after mating. Formation of the bilaminar blastocyst was completed rapidly, on day 7 after mating. The primitive streak appeared on day 10 after mating, and organogenesis rapidly ensued on a timetable similar to that reported for Didelphis virginiana (McCrady, 1938). Close contact with the maternal circulation was established on day 11 and by day 12 maternal and embryonic tissues could not be separated without damage. The length of the gestation period from fertilization to birth was approximately 13.5 days. These observations provide the basis for further embryological cellular and molecular studies of this species as a laboratory model for marsupial development.© 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.