Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 March 2009
Sexual reproduction in the ocean necessitates only the combination of gametes, followed by absorption of nutrients and oxygen from the surrounding watery medium. As life moved from the sea to the land, reproductive strategies required compensation for the loss of this aquatic environment. For the mammals, and scattered other animals, the solution to this problem was the development of the placenta, the means by which the fetus extracts nutrients from its environment. As the animals that utilized the placenta evolved from small rodent-like creatures with short gestations to larger animals with prolonged gestations, the demands of the developing fetus grew. Whereas the placenta of the fetal pig, with a gestational period of a little less than four months, can extract sufficient nutrients from the mother by simple diffusion across the uterus to the placenta, the human fetus needs a far more complex uteroplacental relationship.
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