Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Placentation and maternal investment in mammals

Capellini, Isabella; Venditti, Chris; Barton, R.A.

Placentation and maternal investment in mammals Thumbnail


Isabella Capellini

Chris Venditti


The mammalian placenta exhibits striking inter-specific morphological variation, yet the implications of such diversity for reproductive strategies and fetal development remain obscure. More invasive hemochorial placentae, in which fetal tissues directly contact the maternal blood supply, are believed to facilitate nutrient transfer, resulting in higher fetal growth rates, and to be a state of relative fetal advantage in the evolution of maternal-offspring conflict. The extent of interdigitation between maternal and fetal tissues has received less attention than invasiveness but is also potentially important because it influences the surface area for exchange. We show that, although increased placental invasiveness and interdigitation are both associated with shorter gestations, interdigitation is the key variable. Gestation times associated with highly interdigitated labyrinthine placentae are 44% of those associated with less interdigitated villous and trabecular placentae. There is however no relationship between placental traits and neonatal body and brain size. Hence, species with more interdigitated placentae produce neonates of similar body and brain size but in less than half the time. We suggest that the effects of placental interdigitation on growth rates and the way that these are traded off against gestation length may be promising avenues for understanding the evolutionary dynamics of conflict.


Capellini, I., Venditti, C., & Barton, R. (2011). Placentation and maternal investment in mammals. The American Naturalist, 177(1), 86-98.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2011
Deposit Date Oct 4, 2010
Publicly Available Date Feb 19, 2014
Journal American Naturalist
Print ISSN 0003-0147
Publisher The University of Chicago Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 177
Issue 1
Pages 86-98
Keywords Placenta, Maternal investment, Parent-offspring conflict, Phylogenetic, Foetal growth.


Published Journal Article (736 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2010 by The University of Chicago.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations