Recognition of pregnancy in marsupials

Marsupials give birth to tiny, underdeveloped young that then complete their development outside of the mother, usually in a pouch. Because their young spend so little time in the uterus, marsupial pregnancies are very short. It has long been thought that a female marsupial responds to signals during ovulation but that her body was not able to recognise the presence of an embryo or fetus.

New collaborative research between Australia and the US has shown that marsupials do indeed recognise the presence of a developing embryo, and that their reproductive systems rapidly change to support the pregnancy.

This research is important because it suggests that recognition of pregnancy is a common feature of all live bearing mammals. Importantly it could lead to the development of new technologies, such as a pregnancy test, that could be used to improve breeding programs for threatened marsupial species.