Nav: Home

Milk lipids follow the evolution of mammals

July 07, 2020

Skoltech scientists conducted a study of milk lipids and described the unique features of human breast milk as compared to bovids, pigs, and closely related primates. Their findings could be indicative of co-evolution of milk composition and the specific needs of the developing organism.

Milk is a source of nutrients for growth and development of all mammals. Its composition can adjust to the needs of the baby's organism depending on the habitat, physiology, and reproductive strategy. The main lipids in milk ? triglycerides ? are composed of three fatty acids and show high diversity depending on the lactation stage, season, and the mother's diet. The baby's body uses fatty acids both as a source of energy and as building blocks for cell membranes, which is particularly important for the brain. Thus, the evolution of milk composition could occur concurrently with the evolution of the brain, and interspecific differences in mammalian milk are of special interest to scientists.

Researchers from Philipp Khaitovich's lab at Skoltech conducted mass spectrometric analysis of milk lipid samples of humans, two species of macaques, cows, pigs, goats and yaks, and made comparisons for their 472 components. The differences in the lipid composition were then compared to the known evolutionary distances between the species, and the majority of samples displayed a good match, except for pig milk. The analysis of triglycerides showed that saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids prevail in the milk of even-toed mammals, while primate milk is rich in unsaturated fatty acids. Pig milk contains a large amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may be indicative of the adaptation to the short lactation period. Human milk, unlike primate milk, also contains a lot of polyunsaturated fatty acids. As both primates and humans have rather long lactation periods, scientists attribute the differences in milk composition to increased needs of the more complex human brain. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 and omega-6, mostly come from food and are known to play an important role in the functioning of the nervous system.

"This is the first study that describes lipid composition of milk of seven mammalian species, including humans and primates. Our results show that milk composition differs not only between primates and cows, which was to be expected, but also between humans and monkeys. This means that breast milk is evolving, with its composition reflecting the changing needs of the entire body and the extensively growing brain. As the next step, we want to compare the interspecific differences in the composition of milk and brain," says Aleksandra Mitina, the first author of the paper.

Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech)

Related Evolution Articles:

A timeline on the evolution of reptiles
A statistical analysis of that vast database is helping scientists better understand the evolution of these cold-blooded vertebrates by contradicting a widely held theory that major transitions in evolution always happened in big, quick (geologically speaking) bursts, triggered by major environmental shifts.
Looking at evolution's genealogy from home
Evolution leaves its traces in particular in genomes. A team headed by Dr.
How boundaries become bridges in evolution
The mechanisms that make organisms locally fit and those responsible for change are distinct and occur sequentially in evolution.
Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.
Paleontology: Experiments in evolution
A new find from Patagonia sheds light on the evolution of large predatory dinosaurs.
A window into evolution
The C4 cycle supercharges photosynthesis and evolved independently more than 62 times.
Is evolution predictable?
An international team of scientists working with Heliconius butterflies at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama was faced with a mystery: how do pairs of unrelated butterflies from Peru to Costa Rica evolve nearly the same wing-color patterns over and over again?
Predicting evolution
A new method of 're-barcoding' DNA allows scientists to track rapid evolution in yeast.
Insect evolution: Insect evolution
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that the incidence of midge and fly larvae in amber is far higher than previously thought.
Evolution of aesthetic dentistry
One of the main goals of dental treatment is to mimic teeth and design smiles in the most natural and aesthetic manner, based on the individual and specific needs of the patient.
More Evolution News and Evolution Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.