Thursday, November 4, 2010

How do monotremes lactate? (AKA I am a nerd)


I swear this post is hippy parenting-related.  At least tangentially.

The only screen-time Bean gets is nature videos (and other documentary-type things...like his recent discovery of rockets and videos that show them exploding).

One of the things he's talked about and been interested in for awhile is mammals.  So we've watched videos about mammals, read books about mammals, and I've sought out answers to questions that Bean and I have had along the way.

And along the way I had a second baby and have spent a lot of time dealing with lactation/breastfeeding and, hence, have reminded of what triggers lactation in humans - the detachment of the placenta sets in motion a hormonal shift that leads to milk production.  I assume this is the case in all placental mammals and also in marsupials, since they actually have a placenta of sorts.  But what about monotremes (the third type of mammal), who don't actually birth live young but lay eggs instead?  I mean...there's definitely no placenta and there's a lapse (of about twelve days) between the laying of the eggs and the birth of the young...so where in the reproductive process of a monotreme is milk production triggered??

As anyone who has joined me recently in a Running Mom chat knows...I've become a little obsessed with this question.

Well, I think I've found the answer, so perhaps I'll actually talk about running or something in a Running Mom chat...(it might help that I'm finally running again!).

If I'm understanding this article correctly, monotremes essentially lactate on their eggs so the eggs are appropriately moist.  And then the hatchlings suck the milk from a patch of hair and skin because monotremes don't have nipples.

Nature is freaking weird.

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