Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 194, Issue 2, pp 111–134 | Cite as

Sexual differentiation of the urogenital system of the fetal and neonatal tammar wallaby, Macropus eugenii

  • Marilyn B. Renfree
  • Wai.-Sum O
  • R. V. Short
  • G. Shaw
Original Article


In male tammar wallabies, the scrotum is the first organ to become sexually differentiated, 4–5 days before birth (day 22 of gestation). This is followed by enlargement of the gubernaculum and processus vaginalis one day before birth. However the indifferent gonad does not show any signs of testicular cord formation or androgen production until later, at around the time of birth; this is more pronounced at 2 days post-partum (p.p.), when the testis takes on a characteristic rounded appearance. Primordial germ cells proliferate throughout the testis at this time, although the testis does not become significantly heavier than the ovary until around 80 days p.p.. In females, the appearance of the mammary glands is the first sign of sexual differentiation 4–5 days before birth. The indifferent gonad first shows signs of developing an ovarian cortex and medulla 7 days after birth. The migrating germ cells are confined to the cortex, and first start to enter meiosis about 25 days after birth. The Wolffian (mesonephric) ducts are patent to the urogenital sinus in fetuses at day 21 of gestation. In the female they have started to regress by 10 days p.p. and only rudiments remain by day 25 p.p.. The Müllerian (paramesonephric) ducts develop adjacent to the cranial pole of the mesonephros at about day 25 of gestation and grow caudally to meet the urogenital sinus between days 2 and 7 p.p.. The Müllerian duct of the female develops a prominent ostium abdominale by day 9 p.p., but this structure has completely regressed in males by day 13 p.p.. The testis and ovary both migrate caudally, together with the adjacent mesonephros, at about day 10 p.p.. The ovaries remain around the level of lumbar vertebra 4 after about day 7 p.p., while the testes continue to descend. The testes enter the internal inguinal ring at about day 25 p.p., about the time that prostatic buds first appear in the urogenital sinus, and are in the inguinal canal from days 25 to 36 p.p.. They enter the scrotum at around day 36 p.p., and testicular descent is complete by days 65–72 p.p.. Melanin develops in the tunica vaginalis 72 days after birth. The overall development of the urogenital system in this marsupial is similar to that of eutherians but the sequence of events differs, with some aspects of genital differentiation preceding gonadal differentiation, apparently because they are directly controlled by X-linked genes, rather than indirectly controlled by gonadal steroids.

Key words

Marsupial Gonad Scrotum Pouch Mammary primordia 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marilyn B. Renfree
    • 1
  • Wai.-Sum O
    • 3
  • R. V. Short
    • 2
  • G. Shaw
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhysiologyMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Anatomy, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of Hong KongHong Kong

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