Development of body, head and brain features in the Australian fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata; Marsupialia: Dasyuridae); A postnatal model of forebrain formation

Rodrigo Suárez, Annalisa Paolino, Peter Kozulin, Laura R. Fenlon, Laura R. Morcom, Robert Englebright, Patricia J. O’Hara, Peter J. Murray, Linda J. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most of our understanding of forebrain development comes from research of eutherian mammals, such as rodents, primates, and carnivores. However, as the cerebral cortex forms largely prenatally, observation and manipulation of its development has required invasive and/or ex vivo procedures. Marsupials, on the other hand, are born at comparatively earlier stages of development and most events of forebrain formation occur once attached to the teat, thereby permitting continuous and non-invasive experimental access. Here, we take advantage of this aspect of marsupial biology to establish and characterise a resourceful laboratory model of forebrain development: the fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata), a mouse-sized carnivorous Australian marsupial. We present an anatomical description of the postnatal development of the body, head and brain in dunnarts, and provide a staging system compatible with human and mouse developmental stages. As compared to eutherians, the orofacial region develops earlier in dunnarts, while forebrain development is largely protracted, extending for more than 40 days versus ca. 15 days in mice. We discuss the benefits of fat-tailed dunnarts as laboratory animals in studies of developmental biology, with an emphasis on how their accessibility in the pouch can help address new experimental questions, especially regarding mechanisms of brain development and evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0184450
JournalPloS one
Volume12
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2017

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