Whether or not oogenesis continues in the ovaries of mammalian females during postnatal life was heavily debated from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s. However, in 1951 Lord Solomon Zuckerman published what many consider to be a landmark paper summarizing his personal views of data existing at the time for and against the possibility of postnatal oogenesis. In Zuckerman's opinion, none of the evidence he considered was inconsistent with Waldeyer's initial proposal in 1870 that female mammals cease production of oocytes at or shortly after birth. This conclusion rapidly became dogma, and remained essentially unchallenged until just recently, despite the fact that Zuckerman did not offer a single experiment proving that adult female mammals are incapable of oogenesis. Instead, 20 years later he reemphasized that his conclusion was based solely on an absence of data he felt would be inconsistent with the idea of a nonrenewable oocyte pool provided at birth. However, in the immortal words of Carl Sagan, an “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Indeed, building on the efforts of a few scientists who continued to question this dogma after Zuckerman's treatise in 1951, we reported several data sets in 2004 that were very much inconsistent with the widely held belief that germ cell production in female mammals ceases at birth. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the magnitude of the paradigm shift being proposed, this work reignited a vigorous debate that first began more than a century ago. Our purpose here is to review the experimental evidence offered in recent studies arguing support for and against the possibility that adult mammalian females replenish their oocyte reserve.
“Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”—Plato (427–347 BC).