Monkeys, mice and menses: the bloody anomaly of the spiny mouse
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The common spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus) is the only known rodent to demonstrate a myriad of physiological processes unseen in their murid relatives. The most recently discovered of these uncharacteristic traits: spontaneous decidual transformation of the uterus in virgin females, preceding menstruation. Menstruation occurring without experimental intervention in rodents has not been documented elsewhere to date, and natural menstruation is indeed rare in the animal kingdom outside of higher order primates. This review briefly summarises the current knowledge of spiny mouse biology and taxonomy, and explores their endocrinology which may aid in our understanding of the evolution of menstruation in this species. We propose that DHEA, synthesised by the spiny mouse (but not other rodents), humans and other menstruating primates, is integral in spontaneous decidualisation and therefore menstruation. We discuss both physiological and behavioural attributes across the menstrual cycle in the spiny mouse analogous to those observed in other menstruating species, including premenstrual syndrome. We further encourage the use of the spiny mouse as a small animal model of menstruation and female reproductive biology.
KeywordsMenstruation Novel model Evolution
The authors would like to acknowledge the critical insight into this manuscript and continued intellectual support provided by Associate Professor Peter Temple-Smith.
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