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An extraembryonic membrane which extends through the umbilicus in vertebrates. In some elasmobranchs, birds, and reptiles, it is laden with yolk which serves as the nutritive source of embryonic development.
In mammals, as in birds, the yolk sac generally develops from extraembryonic splanchnopleure, and extends beneath the developing embryo. A blood vessel network develops in the mammalian yolk sac lining. Though these blood vessels are empty, they play an important role in absorbing nourishing food and oxygen from the mother. Thus, although the yolk sac in higher mammals may be considered an evolutionary vestige from its yolky-egged ancestors, it still serves important functions in the young embryo. As the embryo ages, the yolk sac shrinks in size, and the allantois takes over the role of nutrition. See Allantois
the organ of nutrition and respiration in the embryos of cephalopod mollusks, cartilaginous and bony fish, reptiles, birds, mammals, and man.
The yolk sac arises in the early stages of embryonic development, usually by means of the overgrowing of the yolk with endoderm and with the visceral layer of the lateral plates, and consists of an enlarged outgrowth of the midguts, the cavity of which in the majority of animals (except higher mammals and man) is filled with unbroken yolk. In the wall of the yolk sac blood cells and blood vessels are formed, which provide for transport of nutritive substances to the embryo and for its respiration. As the embryo develops, the size of the yolk sac decreases, its cavity shrinks, and it is either gradually drawn into the body cavity and resorbed or is cast off.