Annu Rev Physiol. 2000;62:353-75. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.62.1.353.


Embryonic diapause, or delayed implantation as it is sometimes known, is said to occur when the conceptus enters a state of suspended animation at the blastocyst stage of development. Blastocysts may either cease cell division so that their size and cell numbers remain constant, or undergo a period of very slow growth with minimal cell division and expansion. Diapause has independently evolved on many occasions. There are almost 100 mammals in seven different mammalian orders that undergo diapause. In some groups, such as rodents, kangaroos, and mustelids, it is widespread, whereas others such as the Artiodactyla have only a single representative (the roe deer). In each family the characteristics of diapause differ, and the specific controls vary widely from lactational to seasonal, from estrogen to progesterone, or from photoperiod to nutritional. Prolactin is a key hormone controlling the endocrine milieu of diapause in many species, but paradoxically it may act either to stimulate or inhibit growth and activity of the corpus luteum. Whatever the species-specific mechanisms, the ecological result of diapause is one of synchronization: It effectively lengthens the active gestation period, which allows mating to occur and young to be born at times of the year optimal for that species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryo Implantation, Delayed / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mammals / physiology


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones