In mammals, litter size is a highly variable trait. Some species such as humans or cattle are monotocous, with one or sometimes two newborns per birth, whereas others, the polytocous species such as mice or pigs, are highly prolific and often produce a dozen newborns at each farrowing. In monotocous species, however, two or three newborns per birth may sometime be unwanted. In more polytocous species such as sheep or pigs, litter size is studied in order to increase livestock prolificacy. By contrast, twinning rates in humans or cattle may increase birth difficulties and health problems in the newborns. In this context, the aim of our review was to provide a clearer understanding of the genetic and physiological factors that control multiple births in low-ovulating mammalian species, with particular focus on three species: sheep, cattle, and humans, where knowledge of the ovulation rate in one may enlighten findings in the others. This article therefore reviews the phenotypic and genetic variability observed with respect to ovulation and twinning rates. It then presents the QTL and major genes that have been identified in each species. Finally, we draw a picture of the diversity of the physiological mechanisms underlying multiple ovulation. Although several major genes have been discovered in sheep, QTL detection methods in humans or cattle have suggested that the determinism of litter size is complex and probably involves several genes in order to explain variations in the number of ovulations.
Mammalian Genome – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 8, 2012
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