Development of ingestive behavior

Michael G. Ross, Mark J.M. Nijland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Swallowing represents a primary physiological function that provides for the ingestion of food and fluid. In precocial species, swallowing activity likely develops in utero to provide for a functional system during the neonatal period. The chronically instrumented ovine fetal preparation has provided the opportunity for recent advances in understanding the regulation of in utero swallowing activity. The near-term ovine fetus swallows fluid volumes (100-300 ml/kg) that are markedly greater, per body weight, than that of the adult (40-60 ml/kg). Spontaneous in utero swallowing and ingestive behavior contribute importantly to the regulation of amniotic fluid volume and composition, the acquisition and potential recirculation of solutes from the fetal environment, and the maturation of the fetal gastrointestinal tract. Fetal swallowing activity is influenced by fetal maturation, neurobehavioral state alterations, and the volume of amniotic fluid. Furthermore, intact dipsogenic mechanisms (osmolality, angiotensin II) have been demonstrated in the near-term ovine fetus. It remains unknown to what degree, if any, fetal swallowing may be influenced by nutrient appetite, salt appetite, or taste. Nevertheless, the development of dipsogenic and additional regulatory mechanisms for ingestive behavior occurs during fetal life and may be susceptible to changes in the pregnancy environment. This review describes what is currently known regarding the in utero development of ingestive behavior and the importance of this activity for fetal and perhaps ultimately adult fluid homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R879-R893
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4 43-4
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Amniotic fluid
  • Dipsogen
  • Fetus
  • Ovine
  • Swallowing
  • Thirst

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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