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A unique hemoglobin may help the baby kangaroo's journey to the mothers pouch

San Diego, CA A small species of kangaroo, known as the Tammar wallaby, is highly dependent on it's mother's pouch for its most crucial phase of development: immediately after birth. These native Australians are born after just 27 days of gestation, weighing in at a scant 350 milligrams. At birth, their eyes are not yet connected to their brain and their cerebral cortex possesses only one or two of the six layers it will need in adulthood. In many ways, the newborn Tammar is equivalent to a human embryo at seven weeks of gestation.

The blood of the newborn Tammar is embryonic in type and this persists for several days after birth. The red blood cells are all nucleated, which is characteristic of red cells in the embryos of other mammals, but is quite abnormal in any adult mammalian red cells. Additionally, there are four distinct hemoglobin types, each different from adult hemoglobin. Earlier research has revealed that these hemoglobins have features showing them to be embryonic in type. Before birth, the Tammar must get all its oxygen from the blood of the mother, across the yolk-sac placenta. After birth the animal must become more active and is largely air-breathing, although there is some oxygen uptake through their very thin skin.

The Study

A new study by an Australian research team has examined the embryonic-type hemoglobins from this species. The authors of a new study entitled, "Amino Acid Sequences of the Embryonic Globin Chains of a Marsupial, the Tammar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii)," are Robert Alastair Holland, from the University of New South Wales, Kensington (Sydney), New South Wales; Katherine H Gill, of MacQuarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales; Rory M Hope and David Wheeler, Adelaide University, Adelaide, South Australia; Steven J Cooper, from the South Australian Museum, Adelaide, South Australia; and Andrew A Gooley, Proteome Systems Limited, North Ryde, New South Wales, all in Australia. They will present the
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Contact: Donna Krupa
djkrupa1@aol.com
703-967-2751
American Physiological Society
26-Aug-2002


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