Ultrastructural observations were made of the non-lactating and lactating mammary gland of the Weddell seal, and measurements of several cell components were compared with those in other species to determine whether there are any morphological modifications within the gland to explain the unusual milk composition and very rapid growth of sucking young in this species.
The mammary parenchyma in non-lactating and lactating Weddell seals is almost identical morphologically to that found in other mammals. Although the relative volumes of most organelles are similar to those in other eutherians, the relative volume of rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) is reduced in the Weddell seal. In addition, the absolute and relative volumes of Golgi vacuoles are smaller in the Weddell seal, probably associated with the low lactose and water content of the milk. The synthesis and secretion of milkspecific proteins and fat droplets by mammary secretory cells in the Weddell seal appear to be identical to other eutherians. Relatively small numbers of fat droplets less than 1 μm diameter are present in epithelial cells, alveolar lumina and milk samples, and there is a far greater contribution by large fat droplets to the total fat volume of Weddell seal milk than milk from other mammals.