, Volume 187, Issue 5, pp 475-484

Differentiation of the gonads and initiation of mammary gland and scrotum development in the brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula (Marsupialia)

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Abstract

The first appearance of the mammary and scrotal primordia and the sexual differentiation of the gonads of the brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, are described. Primordial germ cells were first observed, in fetuses of 7.5 mm crown-rump length, in the gonadal ridges and migrating up the dorsal mesentery. Mammary primordia were first observed in fetuses of 11 mm, and scrotal primordia in those of 12 mm crown-rump length. These structures were diagnostic of female and male brushtail possums respectively. Processus vaginales and gubernacula showed sexual dimorphism, being better developed and appearing earlier in males than in females. Sexual differentiation of the gonads occurred after the appearance of mammary and scrotal primordia, the testes being first recognisable in a 14.5-mm fetus and the ovaries postnatally. Birth occurred between the stages of 14 and 15 mm crown-rump length. These observations appear to indicate that the development of mammary and scrotal primordia are not under gonadal hormonal control, but under direct genetic control, as suggested for the tammar wallaby by previous authors.