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Oviparous animals are animals that lay eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive method of most fish, amphibians, reptiles, all birds, the monotremes, and most insects, some molluscs and arachnids.

With more scientific rigor, five modes of reproduction can be differentiated [1] based on relations between zygote and parents:

  • Ovuliparity : fecundation is external (in arthropods and fishes, most of frogs)
  • Oviparity : fecundation is internal, the female lays zygotes as eggs with important vitellus (typically birds)
  • Ovo-viviparity : or oviparity with retention of zygotes in the female’s body or in the male’s body, but there are no trophic interactions between zygote and parents. (Anguis fragilis is an example of ovo-viviparity.) In the sea horse, zygotes are retained in the male’s ventral "marsupium". In the frog Rhinoderma darwinii, the zygotes developed in the vocal sac. In the frog Rheobatrachus, zygotes developed in the stomach.
  • Histotrophic viviparity : the zygotes developed in the female’s oviducts, but find their nutriments by oophagy or adelphophagy (intra-uterine cannibalism in some sharks or in the black salamander Salamandra atra).
  • Hemotrophic viviparity : nutriments are provided by the female, often through placenta. In the frog Gastrotheca ovifera, embryos are fed by the mother through specialized gills. The lizard Pseudomoia pagenstecheri and most of mammals exhibit a hemotrophic viviparity.

Land-dwelling animals that lay eggs, often protected by a shell, such as reptiles and insects, do so after having completed the process of internal fertilization. Water-dwelling animals, such as fish and amphibians, lay their eggs before fertilization, and the male lays its sperm on top of the newly laid eggs in a process called external fertilization.

Almost all non-oviparous fish, amphibians and reptiles are ovoviviparous, i.e. the eggs are hatched inside the mother's body (or, in case of the sea horse inside the father's). The true opposite of oviparity is placental viviparity, employed by almost all mammals (the exceptions being marsupials and monotremes).

There are only five known species of oviparous mammals: four species of Echidna and the Platypus.

See also[]


  1. Thierry Lodé 2001. Les stratégies de reproduction des animaux (reproduction strategies in animal kingdom). Eds Dunod Sciences, Paris

External links[]

bg:Яйценосни животни cs:Vejcorodost de:Oviparie es:Oviparidad eo:Ovodemeto fr:Oviparité gl:Ovíparo hi:अण्डजता hr:Oviparnost ka:კვერცხმბადობა mk:Овипарни животни nn:Ovipar pt:Oviparidade ru:Кладка яиц simple:Oviparous sr:Овипарија fi:Ovipaarinen sv:Ovipari te:అండోత్పాదకాలు uk:Яйцекладні тварини zh:卵生动物 --