• amniotes;
  • mammals;
  • birds;
  • chorioallantoic placenta;
  • yolk sac endoderm;
  • nutrition;
  • trophectoderm;
  • extraembryonic tissues

The transfer of nutrients from the mother through the chorioallantoic placenta meets the nutritional needs of the embryo during human prenatal development. Although all amniotes start with a similar “tool kit” of extraembryonic tissues, an enormous diversity of extraembryonic tissue formation has evolved to accommodate embryological and physiological constraints unique to their developmental programs. A comparative knowledge of these extraembryonic tissues and their role in nutrient uptake during development is required to fully appreciate the adaptive changes in placental mammals. Here, we offer a comparative embryological perspective and propose that there are three conserved nutrient transfer routes among the amniotes. We highlight the importance of the yolk sac endoderm, thought to be a vestigial remnant of our amniote lineage, in mediating nutrient uptake during early human development. We also draw attention to the similarity between yolk sac endoderm-mediated and trophectoderm-mediated nutrient uptake.