The placenta is a complex organ that mediates all physiological and endocrine interactions between mother and developing embryos. Placentas have evolved throughout the animal kingdom, but little is known about how or why the placenta evolved. We review hypotheses about the evolution of placentation and examine empirical evidence in support for these hypotheses by drawing on insights from the fish family Poeciliidae. The placenta evolved multiple times within this family, and there is a remarkable diversity in its form and function among closely related species, thus providing us with ideal material for studying its evolution. Current hypotheses fall into two categories: adaptive hypotheses, which propose that the placenta evolved as an adaptation to environmental pressures, and conflict hypotheses, which posit that the placenta evolved as a result of antagonistic coevolution. These hypotheses are not mutually exclusive. Each may have played a role at different stages of the evolutionary process.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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