Guinea Pig Development

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Adult Guinea Pig

Embryos from the guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) have been used in various tetragenic studies, including the effects of elevated body temperature on embryonic development. Postnatally guinea pigs can become sexually mature as early as four weeks.

Historically, it was the Spanish conquistadors who approximately 400 years ago brought guinea pigs to Europe from South America, where they are native.

Nutritional research using guinea pigs showed that scurvy was due to a lack dietary vitamin C, and they have also been used for other dietary requirement studies.

The guinea pig middle ear ossicles, malleus and incus, are a single fused complex, compared to humans where they are two separate bones.

Links: Maternal Hyperthermia

Some Recent Findings

  • Morphometric analysis of fetal development of Cavia porcellus (Linnaeus, 1758) by ultrasonography-Pilot study[1] "Measurements on the growth process and placental development of the embryo and fetuses of Cavia porcellus were carried out using ultrasonography. Embryo, fetus, and placenta were monitored from Day 15 after mating day to the end of gestation. Based on linear and quadratic regressions, the following morphometric analysis showed a good indicator of the gestational age: placental diameter, biparietal diameter, renal length, and crown rump. The embryonic cardiac beat was first detected at an average of 22.5 days. The placental diameter showed constant increase from beginning of gestation then remained to term and presented a quadratic correlation with gestational age (r(2) = 0.89). Mean placental diameter at the end of pregnancy was 3.5 ± 0.23 cm. By Day 30, it was possible to measure biparietal diameter, which followed a linear pattern of increase up to the end of gestation (r(2) = 0.95). Mean biparietal diameter in the end of pregnancy was 1.94 ± 0.03 cm. Kidneys were firstly observed on Day 35 as hyperechoic structures without the distinction of medullar and cortical layers, thus the regression model equation between kidney length and gestational age presents a quadratic relationship (r(2) = 0.7). The crown rump presented a simple linear growth, starting from 15 days of gestation, displaying a high correlation with the gestational age (r(2) = 0.9). The offspring were born after an average gestation of 61.3 days. In this study, we conclude that biparietal diameter, placental diameter, and crown rump are adequate predictive parameters of gestational age in guinea pigs because they present high correlation index."
  • Differential effect of intrauterine hypoxia on caspase 3 and DNA fragmentation in fetal guinea pig hearts and brains[2] "Chronic intrauterine hypoxia (HPX) decreased pro- and active caspase 3, caspase 3 activity, and DNA fragmentation levels in fetal hearts compared with normoxic controls. L-N6-(1-iminoethyl)-lysine prevented the HPX-induced decrease in caspase 3 activity but did not alter DNA fragmentation levels. In contrast, chronic HPX increased both apoptotic indices in fetal brains, which were inhibited by LNIL. Thus, the effect of HPX on apoptosis differs between fetal organs, and nitric oxide (NO) may play an important role in modulating these effects."
More recent papers
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Search term: Guinea Pig Embryology

Jun Hatakeyama, Haruka Sato, Kenji Shimamura Developing guinea pig brain as a model for cortical folding. Dev. Growth Differ.: 2017; PubMed 28585227

Deniz Tuna Edizer, Ozgur Yigit, Zehra Cinar, Mehmet Gul, Eyyup Kara, Birgul Yigitcan, Duygu Hayır, Ahmet Atas Protective role of intratympanic nigella sativa oil against gentamicin induced hearing loss. Int. J. Pediatr. Otorhinolaryngol.: 2017, 97;83-88 PubMed 28483257

Tamás Kovács-Öller, Gábor Debertin, Márton Balogh, Alma Ganczer, József Orbán, Miklós Nyitrai, Lajos Balogh, Orsolya Kántor, Béla Völgyi Connexin36 Expression in the Mammalian Retina: A Multiple-Species Comparison. Front Cell Neurosci: 2017, 11;65 PubMed 28337128

Merih Onal, Cagdas Elsurer, Nebil Selimoglu, Mustafa Yilmaz, Ender Erdogan, Jale Bengi Celik, Oznur Kal, Ozkan Onal Ozone Prevents Cochlear Damage From Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in Guinea Pigs. Artif Organs: 2017; PubMed 28261890

Lingjie Ma, Jiali Yang, Li Yang, Juan Shi, Jing Xue, Yong Li, Xiaoming Liu Developmental expression of Toll‑like receptors in the guinea pig lung. Mol Med Rep: 2017, 15(3);1243-1251 PubMed 28098883


Cavia porcellus

Taxonomy Id: 10141 Preferred common name: domestic guinea pig Rank: species

Genetic code: Translation table 1 (Standard) Mitochondrial genetic code: Translation table 2 Other names: Cavia cobaya[synonym], Cavia aperea porcellus[synonym], guinea pig[common name]

Lineage( abbreviated ): Eukaryota; Metazoa; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Mammalia; Eutheria; Rodentia; Hystricognathi; Caviidae; Cavia

Development Overview

Lifespan: (maximum) 12 years, (average) 5 years.

Sexual maturity: 4-6 weeks

Estrous cycle: 15-17 days

Gestation period: 67-69 days

Average litter size: 3 pups (range 1 - 4)

Weaning age: 3 weeks

Estrous Cycle

Stockard Papanicolaou1917 figA.jpg

Links: Estrous Cycle

Hyperthermia and Development

Guinea pigs have been successfully used as a sensitive model system for the effects of maternal hyperthermia (high body temperature/fever) upon development. This is an excellent example of a maternal environmental effect on embryonic development and neurological effects have also been demonstrated in other rodent model systems. (More? Abnormal Development- Maternal Effects | Hyperthermia and Development)

Cawdell-Smith J, Upfold J, Edwards M, Smith M. Neural tube and other developmental anomalies in the guinea pig following maternal hyperthermia during early neural tube development. Teratog Carcinog Mutagen. 1992;12(1):1-9. "Guinea pigs were exposed to hyperthermia for 1 hr once or twice on day 11, 12, 13, or 14 (E11-E14) of pregnancy. The mean rectal temperatures were elevated by 3.4 degrees C-4.0 degrees C. This treatment resulted in a marked elevation of rates of resorption and developmental defects in embryos examined at day E23. The defects observed were those affecting the neural tube (NTD) (exencephaly, encephaloceles, and microphthalmia), kyphosis/scoliosis, branchial arch defects, and pericardial edema. Embryos with NTD and kyphosis/scoliosis have not been found among newborn guinea pigs to date following maternal heat exposure on days E12-E14. It appears that embryos with these defects are filtered out by resorption or abortion by days E30-E35." (More? see Marsh Edwards | Upfold etal., 1989)

Guinea Pig Research Characteristics

The following lists reasons why the guinea pig is an excellent model animal system for development studies.

  • Long Gestation Period With Mature Central Nervous System at Birth - toxicology and teratology studies.
  • Sensitivity of Respiratory System - asthma and environmental pollution studies.
  • Anatomy of the Guinea Pig Ear - inner ear studies because it is easily dissected and exposed.
  • Vitamin C Requirement - wound healing. bone, tooth and atherosclerosis studies.
  • Guinea Pig serum - Possesses hemolytic complement with higher activity levels than other lab animals. Widely used as a source of complement for complement fixation test.
  • Susceptibility to Infectious Diseases - sentinel animals because of their acute susceptibility to Coxiella burnetii., Mycobacterium sp. and Listeriosis.
  • Similar lmmune System to Man - immune system possesses a similar antigen-macrophage interaction to man and delayed cutaneous hypersensitivity reaction.
  • High Dietary Requirements - folic acid, thiamine, arginine and potassium make guinea pigs useful in nutrition studies.
  • Precocious Young - good for germ free raising.
  • Quiet Calm Disposition - entomology studies, used to test repellents and insecticides, and as feeding source for biting insects.

Text modified from Washington University - NetVet Guinea Pig Models and Uses in Research Notes


  1. Juliana Santos, Erika Fonseca, Juliano van Melis, Maria Angélica Miglino Morphometric analysis of fetal development of Cavia porcellus (Linnaeus, 1758) by ultrasonography--pilot study. Theriogenology: 2014, 81(7);896-900 PubMed 24560548
  2. LaShauna C Evans, Hongshan Liu, Loren P Thompson Differential effect of intrauterine hypoxia on caspase 3 and DNA fragmentation in fetal guinea pig hearts and brains. Reprod Sci: 2012, 19(3);298-305 PubMed 22383778

Search Pubmed: Guinea Pig Development



S A Bellinger, D Lucas, G A Kleven An ecologically relevant guinea pig model of fetal behavior. Behav. Brain Res.: 2015; PubMed 25655512

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