Characteristics of the equine embryo and fetus from days 15 to 107 of pregnancy.
In spite of numerous, substantial advances in equine reproduction, many stages of embryonic and fetal morphological development are poorly understood, with no apparent single source of comprehensive information. Hence, the objective of the present study was to provide a complete macroscopic and microscopic description of the equine embryo/fetus at various gestational ages. Thirty-four embryos/fetuses were aged based on their crown rump length (CRL), and submitted to macroscopic description, biometry, light and scanning microscopy, as well as the alizarin technique. All observed developmental changes were chronologically ordered and described. As examples of the main observed features, an accentuated cervical curvature was observed upon macroscopic examination in all specimens. In the nervous system, the encephalic fourth ventricle and the encephalic vesicles forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain, were visualized from Day 19 (ovulation = Day 0). The thoracic and pelvic limbs were also visualized; their extremities gave rise to the hoof during development from Day 27. Development of other structures such as pigmented optical vesicle, liver, tail, cardiac area, lungs, and dermal vascularization started on Days 25, 25, 19, 19, 34, and 35, respectively. Light and scanning microscopy facilitated detailed examinations of several organs, e.g., heart, kidneys, lungs, and intestine, whereas the alizarin technique enabled visualization of ossification. Observations in this study contributed to the knowledge regarding equine embryogenesis, and included much detailed data from many specimens collected over a long developmental interval.