[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adrenal hormones likely affect anti-predator behavior in animals. With experimental field studies, we first investigated associations between mean fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCs) excretion and vigilance and with behavioral responses to alarm call playbacks in free-ranging meerkats (Suricata suricatta). We then tested how vigilance and behavioral responses to alarm call playbacks were affected in individuals administered exogenous cortisol. We found a positive association between mean fGCs concentrations and vigilance behavior, but no relationship with the intensity of behavioral responses to alarm calls. However, in response to alarm call playbacks, individuals administered cortisol took slightly longer to resume foraging than control individuals treated with saline solution. Vigilance behavior, which occurs in the presence and absence of dangerous stimuli, serves to detect and
avoid potential dangers, whereas responses to alarm calls serve to avoid immediate predation. Our data show that mean fGCs excretion in meerkats was associated with vigilance, as a re-occurring anti-predator behavior over long time periods, and experimentally induced elevations of plasma cortisol affected the response to immediate threats. Together, our results indicate an association between the two types of anti-predator behavior and glucocorticoids, but that the underlying mechanisms may differ. Our study emphasizes the need to consider appropriate measures of adrenal activity specific to different contexts when assessing links between stress physiology and different anti-predator behaviors.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Hormones and Behavior
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite exceptional advances in ensuring the health and well-being of animals in human care, zoos of the twenty-first century are ill-prepared and overwhelmed by the sheer number of species requiring conservation support. Furthermore, small population management paradigms have failed to achieve the demographic and genetic targets required to sustain most endangered species in human care. Predictions made in the 1980s regarding the potential of a "millennium ark"-aided by the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs)-for saving species have proven to be wildly over-optimistic. ARTs continue to be touted as a panacea for saving endangered species and even for resurrecting extinct ones. And yet, while the first successful interspecies embryo transfer in a wildlife species occurred 30 years ago, there still is not a single example of embryo-based technologies being used to consistently manage a conservation-reliant species. The limited contribution of ARTs to species conservation to date principally stems from the lack of knowledge of species biology, as well as inadequate facilities, space, expertise, and funding needed for their successful application. ARTs could and should be an important tool in our conservation toolbox, but we cannot fall into the trap of believing that we can "assist" or clone our way out of the present biodiversity crisis. Reproductive technologists overstate the potential of ARTs for saving endangered species, zoos overestimate their ability to sustain genetically and demographically viable captive populations with existing resources, and conservationists underestimate their need for zoos in the face of failing efforts to sustain species in nature. Unless all parties concerned-reproductive technologists, zoo biologists and conservationists-adopt parallel efforts to sustain wild populations and places, zoos risk becoming living museums exhibiting relic species that no longer exist in nature.
No preview · Article · Aug 2014 · Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To date, there has been limited research on manipulation of the estrous cycle in endangered equids. The objectives of this study were to assess the efficacy of using combinations of: a) oral altrenogest and PGF2α, and b) injectable altrenogest and PGF2α for manipulation of ovarian activity in Przewalski's mares. Reproductive cycles were monitored by assessing follicular changes with rectal ultrasound and changes in urinary steroid hormones. In Study 1, five cycling mares were treated with oral altrenogest (n = 11 cycles) for 14 days. In Study 2, cycling mares were treated with oral altrenogest for 12 days (n = 5 cycles; n = 5 mares) or a single injection of biorelease altrenogest (n = 10 cycles; n = 6 mares). In all study groups, PGF2α was given 2 days before cessation of progestagen treatment. In Study 1, mares responded in six of 11 cycles (54%) where treatment occurred with normal ovarian follicular development post hormone therapy. In Study 2, mares responded in four of five (80%, oral altrenogest) and eight of 10 (80%, injectable altrenogest) cycles with the development of an ovulatory follicle. With the use of injectable altrenogest, there was an obvious suppression of urinary estrogens and progetsagens. These results indicate that manipulation of the estrous cycle of Przewalski's mares can be achieved by administering oral (12 days) or injectable form of altrenogest in conjunction with PGF2α. Findings in the present study may have long term application for the development of timed artificial insemination as a genetic management tool for this critically endangered equid.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: ABSTRACT Ungulate ecological studies often include components of reproduction because of its demographic
importance and the ecological factors affecting it. Pregnancy status, in particular, is key because it
represents a starting point for succeeding measurements of vital rates. Here, we present a case study using
wild bison (Bison bison), in which we developed a non-invasive method for assessing pregnancy in unmarked,
non-handled animals that improves upon existing approaches for wild ungulates. Specifically, we employed a
model-based binary logistic-regression approach to estimate the probability of pregnancy predicted by fecal
progestagen concentrations quantified from a single, late-gestation scat sample. For 155 observations of 42
marked bison from the Jackson herd in northwest Wyoming, USA during 1997–2005, we used combinations
of transrectal uterine palpation and calf status as independent measures of pregnancy to reduce the potential
for error inherent in using either measure alone. We evaluated predictive success by calculating misprediction
rates from leave-one-out cross-validation, and by calculating the percentage of 95% confidence
intervals that crossed a pregnant–not-pregnant threshold. Correct predictions, with high confidence, were
obtained from a model using year-centered, natural-log-transformed progestagen concentrations, resulting
in an overall successful cross-validation pregnancy prediction rate of 93.5%. Our approach will allow
practitioners to consider the uncertainty associated with each prediction, thereby improving prediction
interpretations. The approach should appeal to practitioners because fecal samples are easily collected and
preserved, laboratory procedures are well-documented, and logistic-regression statistical software is readily
available. Furthermore, samples can be obtained non-invasively, which reduces cost and potential bias and
increases animal safety, human safety, and social acceptability. �
No preview · Article · Dec 2012 · Wildlife Society Bulletin
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Animals facing seasonal variation in food availability experience selective pressures that favor behavioral adjustments such as migration, changes in activity, or shifts in diet. Eclectic omnivores such as many primates can process low-quality fallback food when preferred food is unavailable. Such dietary flexibility, however, may be insufficient to eliminate constraints on reproduction even for species that live in relatively permissive environments, such as moist tropical forests. Focusing on a forest-dwelling primate with a flexible diet (Cercopithecus mitis) we investigated whether females experience seasonal energetic stress and how it may relate to reproductive seasonality. We used fecal glucocorticoids (fGCs) as an indicator of energetic stress, controlling for the potentially confounding effects of social interactions and reproductive state. We modeled within-female fGC variation with General Linear Mixed Models, evaluating changes in feeding behavior and food availability as main effects. Regardless of reproductive state, fGCs increased when females shifted their diet towards fallback foods (mature leaves and other non-preferred items) and when they spent more time feeding, while fGCs decreased with feeding time on preferred items (insects, fruits, young leaves) and with the availability of young leaves. Changes in fruit availability had no general effects on fGCs, likely because fruits were sought out regardless of availability. As predicted, females in the energetically demanding stages of late pregnancy and early lactation showed greater increases in fGCs between periods of low versus high availability of fruits and young leaves than females in other reproductive states. Potential social stressors had no measurable effects on fGCs. Preliminary evidence suggests that seasonal energetic stress may affect the timing of infant independence from mothers and contribute to unusually long inter-birth intervals compared to closely related species of similar body size. Our findings highlight how the study of stress responses can provide insights into the proximate control of reproductive strategies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Due to its complexity, in combination with a lack of scientific reports, fur-chewing became one of the most challenging behavioral problems common to captive chinchillas. In the last years, the hypothesis that fur-chewing is an abnormal repetitive behavior and that stress plays a role in its development and performance has arisen. Here, we investigated whether a relationship existed between the expression and intensity of fur-chewing behavior, elevated urinary cortisol excretion and anxiety-related behaviors. Specifically, we evaluated the following parameters in behaviorally normal and fur-chewing animals of both sexes: (1) mean concentrations of urinary cortisol metabolites and (2) anxiety-like behavior in an elevated plus-maze test. Urinary cortisol metabolites were higher only in females that expressed the most severe form of the fur-chewing behavior (P≤0.05). Likewise, only fur-chewing females exhibited increased (P≤0.05) anxiety-like behaviors associated with the elevated plus-maze test. Overall, these data provided additional evidence to support the concept that fur-chewing is a manifestation of physiological stress in chinchilla, and that a female sex bias exists in the development of this abnormal behavior.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Hormones and Behavior
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glucocorticoid hormones (GCs) have been studied intensively to understand the associations between physiological stress and reproductive skew in animal societies. However, we have little appreciation of the range of either natural levels within and among individuals, or the associations among dominance status, reproductive rate and GCs levels during breeding. To address these shortcomings, we examined variation in fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGC) during breeding periods in free-ranging female meerkats (Suricata suricatta) over 11 years. The vast majority of variation in fGC levels was found within breeding events by the same female (~87%), with the remaining variation arising among breeding events and among females. Concentrations of fGC generally tripled as pregnancy progressed. However, females with a high reproductive rate, defined as those conceiving within a month following parturition (mean = 9 days postpartum), showed significant reductions in fGC in the final 2 weeks before parturition. Despite these reductions, females with a high reproductive rate had higher fGC levels at conception of the following litter than those breeding at a low rate. After controlling for the higher reproductive rate of dominants, we found no association between levels of fGC and either age or dominance status. Our results suggest that one should be cautious about interpreting associations between dominance status, reproductive skew and GCs levels, without knowledge of the natural variation in GCs levels within and among females.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2011 · Hormones and Behavior
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Seasonal reproductive-endocrine norms have not been described for the genus Tragelaphus, which consists of seven species of African antelope. Longitudinal patterns of progesterone metabolite excretion were assessed by radioimmunoassays in fecal samples collected noninvasively (three to seven samples per week) from greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros, n = 4) and lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis, n = 4). Progesterone metabolite excretion patterns revealed seasonal estrous cycles in both species, and discrimination of pregnant versus nonpregnant females was achieved in lesser kudu. These data reveal the value of fecal progesterone metabolites for establishing reproductive-endocrine norms in both zoo-maintained and free-living antelopes of the genus Tragelaphus.
No preview · Article · Dec 2011 · Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent, successful application of assisted reproductive technologies in captive beluga has resulted from the extensive study of male beluga reproductive biology. Optimization of assisted reproduction requires additional detailed knowledge of the female estrous cycle. Our specific objectives were to: (1) validate urinary immunoassays for use in this species; (2) elucidate annual ovarian cycle dynamics through the combined use of hormone excretion patterns and transabdominal ultrasound; and (3) establish whether ovulation in this species is spontaneous or induced by male factors. Ovulation was observed in four of 15 estrous cycles monitored in four adult female beluga maintained in a single-sex group. After introduction of a breeding male, ovulation was observed in six of seven estrous cycles. All estrous cycles occurred from March through June. For spontaneous ovulations (n=4), the inter-estrous interval was 34d (range 33-35d), with a follicular phase length (FPL) of 25±8d (mean±SD). For all ovulatory estrous cycles (with and without a breeding male), urinary estrogen conjugates (EC, 15.3±7.9ng/mg Cr) and ovulatory luteinizing hormone (ovLH, 17.1±6.6ng/mg Cr) concentrations both peaked on Day 0, and EC concentrations returned to baseline 8±7d later. For non-conceptive cycles, urinary progestagen (Pg) concentrations increased on Day 0 (3.5±1.7ng/mg Cr), peaked on Day+19 (19.7±17.1ng/mg Cr), and were elevated above baseline for 27±4d. Preovulatory follicular diameter and circumference on Day -2±2 (range: Day -4 to -1) from peak EC were 2.5±0.7 and 7.8±1.3cm, respectively. The FPL in non-ovulatory estrous cycles (n=11) lasted 24±10d and EC concentrations gradually declined to baseline over a 21±10d interval following the EC peak (27.8±28.8ng/mg Cr). Non-ovulatory estrous cycles were characterized by the absence of an ovLH surge and no concomitant increase in Pg concentrations above baseline excretion; the mean follicular diameter at or near peak EC was 3.1±0.8cm on Day 2 ±3d from peak EC (range: -1 to +5days from peak EC). Overall, these data confirm that captive beluga exhibit reproductive seasonality and demonstrate that the species is a facultative-induced ovulator.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2011 · General and Comparative Endocrinology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: 1. Testosterone (T) is a key mediator in the expression of numerous morphological and behavioural traits in mammals, but the factors underlying individual variation in circulating T levels are poorly understood.
2. The intimate structural integration of sperm and T production within the testes, alongside the dependency of sperm production on high levels of T, suggests that T requirements for spermatogenesis could be an important driver of individual differences in T.
3. To test this hypothesis, we examine how male capacity for sperm production (as indicated by their testes size) is associated with T levels in a feral population of Soay sheep, resident on St. Kilda, Scotland, during their rutting season.
4. We found a strong positive relationship between an individual’s testes size (as measured before their seasonal enlargement) and the levels of circulating T during their rut, suggesting that T requirements for spermatogenesis has a prominent influence on the production of this androgen.
5. In contrast, body condition and competitive ability did not independently predict T levels, findings that are inconsistent with conventional ‘condition-dependent’ and ‘challenge’ hypotheses of T production.
6. This influence of male’s capacity for sperm production on T appeared to be substantial enough to be biologically relevant, as testes size also predicted male aggression and mate-seeking behaviour.
7. Our results suggest that a male’s inherent capacity for sperm and T production is tightly phenotypically integrated, with potential consequences for a wide range of other T-mediated reproductive traits.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The ex situ population of the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) is not self-sustaining (20% foaling rate), and the demography is skewed toward aging individuals with low gene diversity. We designed the present study to gain a better understanding of the reproductive biology of the Przewalski's mare and to determine whether age and gene diversity influenced reproductive function. Urine samples were collected 3-7 days/wk from 19 mares from May to September, and ultrasound examinations of follicular structures were performed 3 days/wk for 5 wk from May through July in nine individuals. A high proportion of mares exhibited abnormal (endocrine, 5 [26.3%] of 19; follicular, 2 [22.2%] of 9) or acyclic (endocrine, 4 [21.1%] of 19; follicular, 3 [33.3%] of 9) reproductive patterns. In four cyclic mares, estrous cycle length was 25.1 ± 1.2 days, with 12.2 ± 0.9 days of diestrus. Follicles in cyclic mares grew 1.2 ± 0.6 mm per day and ovulated after reaching 40.4 ± 8.9 mm. Mares with a high coefficient of inbreeding excreted reduced levels of mean urinary estrogens (r(2) = 0.476, P < 0.05), but age had no significant impact on reproductive patterns in this population. Overall, these data suggest that long-term genetic management of this population is necessary to maintain reproductive fitness.
No preview · Article · Sep 2011 · Biology of Reproduction
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To better understand the adaptive significance of adrenal glucocorticoid (GC) variation in the giant panda, we assessed patterns of fecal GC excretion over time as well as during estrus, parturient and non-parturient luteal phases, lactation and acyclicity in 17 adult females. Fecal estrogen and GC patterns were positively correlated (P<0.05) in four of five periestrual females (r = 0.57-0.92). Among all reproductive states, fecal GC was highest (P<0.05) during periestrus (non-parturient, 495.9 ± 100.7 ng/g [mean ± SE]; parturient, 654.1 ± 10 6.5 ng/g; P>0.05). Concentrations of GC metabolites were lower (P<0.05) during the later stage of the luteal phase in non-parturient (334.8 ± 24.8 ng/g) compared to parturient (470.4 ± 54.0 ng/g) females. Although fecal GC concentrations in cyclic, non-parturient females did not differ (P>0.05) across all seasons, there were seasonal variations (P<0.05) in females that were acyclic and non-lactational. However, the overall lack of difference (P>0.05) in GC values between reproductively cyclic and acyclic females did not support the hypothesis that ovarian acyclicity is due to increased adrenal activity (related or unrelated to physiological stress). Furthermore, GCs may play an important role in the normal endocrine milieu associated with sexual receptivity and late pregnancy. These data demonstrate that both reproductive status and seasonal factors are important modulators of adrenal function in this endangered species.
No preview · Article · Sep 2011 · General and Comparative Endocrinology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Socioecological theory predicts that aggressive feeding competition is associated with linear dominance hierarchies and reproductive advantages for high-ranking females. Female blue monkeys contest fruits and have a linear dominance hierarchy, yet previous research has shown no evidence that high-ranking females benefit from greater feeding success or fertility. Here, we assess whether individuals differ in fecal glucocorticoid (fGC) excretion and examine proximate determinants of such differences to infer potential fitness correlates of rank, using data collected from two study groups in the Kakamega Forest, Kenya. We found that higher ranking females had preferential access to fruits in both groups, although the behavioral mechanisms leading to this effect varied between groups. Despite a consistent rank difference in feeding on fruits, an overall rank effect on fGCs emerged in only one group; females of this group spent comparatively more time feeding on fruits, fruits accounted for a greater proportion of the diet, and females engaged in more frequent food-related agonism. In addition, more females in this group were lactating during a period of low fruit availability, when rank effects on fGCs were particularly strong. Regardless of fruit availability, among lactating females of both groups higher rank was associated with lower fGC levels, indicating lower energetic stress in higher ranking females when energy demands were particularly high. Individual rates of agonism, a potential psychological stressor, were unrelated to fGCs at all times. After we accounted for rates of agonism and feeding on fruits, females of one group who groomed others more had lower fGCs, suggesting that variable social coping behavior can contribute to fGC variation in some groups. This study provides the first empirical evidence that high-ranking female blue monkeys may obtain fitness benefits from their social status, by gaining priority of access to fruits during critical times in the reproductive cycle.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · American Journal of Primatology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated the phylogeography and sub-species classification of the ostrich (Struthio camelus) by assessing patterns of variation in mitochondrial DNA con-trol region (mtDNA-CR) sequence and across fourteen nuclear microsatellite loci. The current consensus taxonomy of S. camelus names five subspecies based on morphology, geographic range, mtDNA restriction fragment length polymorphism and mtDNA-CR sequence analysis: S. c. camelus, S. c. syriacus, S. c. molybdephanes, S. c. massaicus and S. c. australis. We expanded a previous mtDNA dataset from 18 individual mtDNA-CR sequences to 123 sequences, including sequences from all five subspecies. Importantly, these additional sequences included 43 novel sequences of the red-necked ostrich, S. c. camelus, obtained from birds from Niger. Phylogeographic reconstruction of these sequences matches previous results, with three well-sup-ported clades containing S. c. camelus/syriacus, S. c. molybdophanes, and S. c. massaicus/australis, respectively. The 14 microsatellite loci assessed for 119 individuals of four subspecies (all but S. c. syriacus) showed considerable variation, with an average of 13.4 (±2.0) alleles per locus and a mean observed heterozygosity of 55.7 (±5.3)%. These data revealed high levels of variation within most subspe-cies, and a structure analysis revealed strong separation between each of the four subspecies. The level of divergence across both marker types suggests the consideration of separate species status for S. c. molybdophanes, and perhaps also for S. c. camelus/syriacus. Both the mtDNA-CR and microsatellite analyzes also suggest that there has been no recent hybridization between the subspecies. These findings are of importance for management of the highly endangered red-necked subspecies (S. c. camelus) and may warrant its placement onto the IUCN red list of threatened animals.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Eld's deer stags (Cervus eldi thamin) (in groups of three) were continuously administered gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in control, low, medium, or high doses (0, 20.1 ± 0.7, 83.3 ± 2.6, and 292.9 ± 4.9 ng∙kg−1∙d−1, respectively) via osmotic minipumps for ~80 d to investigate the potential for precociously reactivating the pituitary–testicular axis during the nonbreeding season. Secretory patterns of LH, FSH, and testosterone concentrations were qualitatively similar among treatments. However, in the low-dose group, basal LH and FSH concentrations were both increased (p < 0.05) and pituitary responsiveness to a superimposed GnRH challenge was augmented (p < 0.05) after 12 weeks of treatment compared with all other groups. Despite these endocrine changes, continuous low-dose GnRH administration was not effective for precociously inducing testicular activity in this seasonally breeding species. High-dose GnRH administration initially induced a transient increase in LH, FSH, and testosterone secretion and delayed, but did not prevent, the seasonal decline in spermatogenesis. After 6–12 weeks of high-dose GnRH administration, however, attenuated pituitary responsiveness appeared to delay the normal seasonal reactivation of the pituitary–gonadal axis. In conclusion, prolonged, continuous low-dose GnRH administration did not effectively translate into a precocious onset of testicular activity; therefore, this specific approach is unlikely to be useful for prolonging the fertile period in this seasonally breeding species.
No preview · Article · Feb 2011 · Canadian Journal of Zoology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to determine androgen and glucocorticoid (GC) hormonal patterns in male giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) by monitoring gonadal and adrenal metabolites in feces. Initial validation experiments demonstrated comparable excretory patterns in urine versus feces for both androgen and GC measures. Matched urinary and fecal androgen and GC were correlated strongly with each other in a single male that was assessed over 2 years. A single pharmacological injection of adrenocorticotropic hormone caused a 15-fold GC increase in feces above baseline within 10 h, a peak at 12 h, and a return to baseline at 20 h, demonstrating the biological relationship between adrenal activation and GC excretion. Longitudinal androgen and GC excretory profiles in male giant pandas housed at North American (n = 2) and Chinese (n = 3) facilities were similar, with fecal androgens generally exceeding baseline coincident with the onset of the 5-month annual breeding season (January-June), after which values returned to nadir. Similarly, fecal GC excretion increased during the breeding season but was baseline thereafter. Fecal androgen and GC in a single male monitored through transition from subadult to sexual maturity also occurred in parallel. In this individual, basal fecal androgen and GC increased 88% and 66%, respectively, from 5 to 6 years of age. Collectively, these data demonstrate seasonal variations in gonadal activity in the giant panda by measuring androgen metabolites in feces, with elevations consistently occurring from January through June before a return to baseline for ~4–6 months. Findings also reveal a similar temporal rise in adrenal GC patterns associated with breeding season onset, perhaps a mechanism to enhance metabolism, maximize body energy stores, and provide a competitive advantage in achieving mating opportunities. Examination of data from a single male suggests that the ability to produce these seasonal androgen and GC elevations is age dependent and occurs coincident with puberty.
Full-text · Article · Dec 2010 · Journal of Mammalogy
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Because of their mediating role in the stress response and potential effects on fitness, glucocorticoid (GC) hormones are increasingly used to assess the physiological costs of environmental and behavioral variation among wild vertebrates. Identifying the proximate causes of GC variation, however, is complicated by simultaneous exposure to multiple potentially stressful stimuli. Here, we use data from a partially provisioned social group of Sykes' monkeys to evaluate the effects of potential psychological and metabolic stressors on temporal and individual variation in fecal GC (fGC) excretion among 11 adult females. Despite high rates of agonism over provisioned foods fGCs declined during periods of high provisioning frequency when fruit availability was dominated by neem (Azadirachta indica), an item requiring great feeding effort. Provisioned foods did not prevent fGC increases when availability of the most preferred main fruit item, tamarind (Tamarindus indica), declined drastically. Although rank-related differences in access to provisioned foods and rates of agonism did not lead to an overall effect of rank on fGCs, low-ranking females excreted more fGCs than high-ranking females during a period of high provisioning intensity and low fruit availability. The emergence of this rank effect was associated with elevated feeding effort in all females, a greater access to provisioned items by high-ranking females, and a higher proportion of time spent moving in low-ranking females. Our findings suggest that metabolic stressors were the primary determinants of both temporal and individual variation in fGCs, indicating potential fitness benefits for high-ranking females when food availability is limited.
Full-text · Article · Sep 2010 · Hormones and Behavior
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The luteal phase of the giant panda has been exclusively assessed by studying urinary hormone patterns in a very few individuals. To better understand hormonal dynamics of protracted progestagen excretion in this endangered species, we monitored hormonal metabolites in the fibrous faeces of multiple females in the USA and China. Giant pandas that were anoestrual during the breeding season excreted baseline progestagen throughout the year. In contrast, there were two distinctive periods when progestagen excretion increased in females that experienced behavioural oestrus, the first being modest, lasting for 61-122 days, and likely reflecting presumptive ovulation. This increase was far surpassed by a secondary rise in progestagen excretion associated with a rejuvenated luteal capacity or hormone production from an extra-gonadal source. The duration of this 'secondary' rise in progestagen excretion averaged approximately 45 days and terminated in a decline to baseline coincident with parturition or the end of a non-parturient luteal interval. Data revealed that, even with a complex, biphasic progestagen profile, the longitudinal patterns produced by giant pandas were relatively consistent among animals and across years within individuals. However, progestagen excretion patterns throughout this period could not be used to discriminate among non-pregnant, pregnant or pseudopregnant states.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite the importance of the western white-bearded wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi) to the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, surprisingly little is known about the reproductive physiology of this keystone species. A longitudinal, non-invasive endocrine study was conducted on female wildebeest captured from the Serengeti-Mara migration and maintained for approximately 16 months in large fenced enclosures within the species' natural range. An intact bull was introduced to a female subgroup (n=5), while remaining females (n=10) were unexposed to a male. Fecal progestagen patterns reflected ovarian activity and pregnancy. In non-pregnant animals, luteal and inter-luteal baseline progestagen values differed (p<0.001) over time, thereby allowing identification of recurrent estrous cycles. The average durations of the luteal phase, estrous cycle, gestation, and post-partum anestrus were 14.3+/-0.5, 22.6+/-1.0, 240.8+/-11.7, and 104.1+/-15.6 d, respectively. Annual reproductive patterns indicated a distinctive period of ovarian activity that extended from 13 May through 3 December (203.5+/-29.9 d) with all unmated females displaying from one to 14 estrous cycles. Progestagens were higher (p <0.001) in pregnant (n=4) than non-pregnant (n=10) cows. These data (1) reveal the value of fecal hormone monitoring for establishing the first ever endocrine profiles of female wildebeest in semi-free-living conditions in their native range, and (2) indicate that the species is a seasonal breeder that is polyestrous and a spontaneous ovulator.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2010 · General and Comparative Endocrinology