Volume 64 (2018) Issue 1 Pages 1-6
Spawned unfertilized eggs have been found to die by apoptosis in several species with external fertilization. However, there is no necessity for the externally laid eggs to degrade via this process, as apoptosis evolved as a mechanism to reduce the damaging effects of individual cell death on the whole organism. The recent observation of egg degradation in the genital tracts of some oviparous species provides a clue as to the physiological relevance of egg apoptosis in these animals. We hypothesize that egg apoptosis accompanies ovulation in species with external fertilization as a normal process to eliminate mature eggs retained in the genital tract after ovulation. Furthermore, apoptosis universally develops in ovulated eggs after spontaneous activation in the absence of fertilization. This paper provides an overview of egg apoptosis in several oviparous biological species, including frog, fish, sea urchin, and starfish.