The corpus luteum (CL) is a transitory organ which has a regulatory role in reproduction. Sharks, amphibians and reptiles have corpora lutea that produce progesterone which influences the rate of embryonic development. The egg-laying monotremes and the two major mammalian groups, eutherian and marsupial, have a CL that secretes progesterone. Most eutherians have allowed for the uterine development of their young by extending the length of the oestrous cycle and the CL or placenta actively secretes progesterone until birth. Gestation in the marsupial does not extend beyond the length of an oestrous cycle and the major part of fetal development takes place in the pouch. Where the extension of the post-luteal phase in the eutherian has allowed for the uterine development of young, the marsupial has extended the pre-luteal phase of the oestrous cycle and has evolved an alternative reproductive strategy, embryonic diapause. The mechanism for the secretion of hormones from the CL has been controversial for many years. Densely-staining secretory granules have been observed in the CL of sharks, marsupials and eutherians. These granules have been reported to contain relaxin, oxytocin or mesotocin, and progesterone. A hypothesis to suit all available data is that all hormones secreted by the CL are transported within such granules. In conclusion, although there are obvious differences in the mode of reproduction in the two main mammalian groups, it is apparent that there is a great deal of similarity in the hormonal control of regression of the CL and parturition.