Guinea Pig Development

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Adult Guinea Pig

Embryos from the guinea pig or 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.

Guinea Pig Links: guinea pig | maternal hyperthermia
Historic Embryology - Guinea Pig 
1914 Embedding Embryo | 1917 Oestrous cycle | 1921 Heart | 1932 Development Day 11-21 days | 1933 Development Day 21-35 | 1936 Genital and Endocrine | 1964 Oocyte EM

Some Recent Findings

  • External genital Development, urethra Formation, and hypospadias Induction in Guinea Pig: A Double Zipper Model for Human Urethral Development[1] "The external genitalia of guinea pig were collected from genital swelling initiation to newborn stages, and scanning electronic microscopy and histology were performed to visualize the morphology and structure. ...Fetal development of the guinea pig phallus is homologous to that of humans. Although guinea pig has structures similar to mouse, the urethral groove and the tubular urethra formation are more similar to humans. Antiandrogen treatment causes hypospadias in males and additional androgen induces tubular urethra formation in females. Thus, guinea pig is an appropriate model for further study of cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in distal-opening-proximal-closing in tubular urethra formation and the evaluation of the pathophysiological processes of hypospadias."
  • Developing guinea pig brain as a model for cortical folding[2] "The cerebral cortex in mammals, the neocortex specifically, is highly diverse among species with respect to its size and morphology, likely reflecting the immense adaptiveness of this lineage. In particular, the pattern and number of convoluted ridges and fissures, called gyri and sulci, respectively, on the surface of the cortex are variable among species and even individuals. However, little is known about the mechanism of cortical folding, although there have been several hypotheses proposed."
More recent papers  
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Search term: Guinea Pig Development | Guinea Pig Embryology

Older papers  
These papers originally appeared in the Some Recent Findings table, but as that list grew in length have now been shuffled down to this collapsible table.

See also the Discussion Page for other references listed by year and References on this current page.

  • Morphometric analysis of fetal development of Cavia porcellus (Linnaeus, 1758) by ultrasonography-Pilot study[3] "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[4] "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."


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


The following data is from a recent macroscopic and microscopic study of guinea pig neural development.[5]


  • day 20 - rudimentary optical vesicles, slight retinal pigmentation, beginning of primary vesicles (forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain)
  • day 30 - still undifferentiated nervous tissue without macroscopic differentiation of cerebral sulci and gyri. Brain and brainstem were an aggregate of nervous tissue without macroscopic structure differences. Spinal cord present and cauda equina was absent.
  • day 45 - brain fully developed with division of left and right cerebral hemispheres, marked by the dorsal median groove. Spinal cord after the medulla oblongata observed, with cervical and lumbar enlargements.
  • day 50 to 60 - no significant additional structural differences.


  • day 22 - primordium of the spinal cord was observed, with a spinal canal well defined and populated by cells.
  • day 25 - medullary canal had a density higher than previously.
  • day 45 - white matter predominant in central parts of the brain. Cerebellar cortex has only 3 layers

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.[6] 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? maternal hyperthermia)

"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."

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. Wang S, Shi M, Zhu D, Mathews R & Zheng Z. (2018). External Genital Development, Urethra Formation, and Hypospadias Induction in Guinea Pig: A Double Zipper Model for Human Urethral Development. Urology , 113, 179-186. PMID: 29155192 DOI.
  2. Hatakeyama J, Sato H & Shimamura K. (2017). Developing guinea pig brain as a model for cortical folding. Dev. Growth Differ. , 59, 286-301. PMID: 28585227 DOI.
  3. Santos J, Fonseca E, van Melis J & Miglino MA. (2014). Morphometric analysis of fetal development of Cavia porcellus (Linnaeus, 1758) by ultrasonography--pilot study. Theriogenology , 81, 896-900. PMID: 24560548 DOI.
  4. Evans LC, Liu H & Thompson LP. (2012). Differential effect of intrauterine hypoxia on caspase 3 and DNA fragmentation in fetal guinea pig hearts and brains. Reprod Sci , 19, 298-305. PMID: 22383778 DOI.
  5. Silva FMO. Alcantara D. Carvalho RC. Favaron PO. Santos AC Viana DC. and Miglino MA. Development of the central nervous system in guinea pig (Cavia porcellus, Rodentia, Caviidae). (2016) Pesquisa Veterinciria Brasileira 36(8): 753-760. DOI
  6. Cawdell-Smith J, Upfold J, Edwards M & Smith M. (1992). Neural tube and other developmental anomalies in the guinea pig following maternal hyperthermia during early neural tube development. Teratog., Carcinog. Mutagen. , 12, 1-9. PMID: 1354895

Search Pubmed: Guinea Pig Development



Silva FMO. Alcantara D. Carvalho RC. Favaron PO. Santos AC Viana DC. and Miglino MA. Development of the central nervous system in guinea pig (Cavia porcellus, Rodentia, Caviidae). (2016) Pesquisa Veterinciria Brasileira 36(8): 753-760. DOI

Bennett GA, Palliser HK, Walker D & Hirst J. (2016). Severity and timing: How prenatal stress exposure affects glial developmental, emotional behavioural and plasma neurosteroid responses in guinea pig offspring. Psychoneuroendocrinology , 70, 47-57. PMID: 27155257 DOI.

Noseworthy JH, Gilbert JJ, Vandervoort MK & Karlik SJ. (1988). Postnatal NMR changes in guinea pig central nervous system: potential relevance to experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. Magn Reson Med , 6, 199-211. PMID: 3367777

Bellinger SA, Lucas D & Kleven GA. (2015). An ecologically relevant guinea pig model of fetal behavior. Behav. Brain Res. , 283, 175-83. PMID: 25655512 DOI.

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