Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Changes in urinary androgen concentration indicate that male giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) respond to impending female oestrus during and outside the typical spring breeding season

Barbara L. Gocinski A E , Katrina K. Knott A , Beth M. Roberts A , Janine L. Brown B , Carrie K. Vance C and Andrew J. Kouba D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Conservation and Research, Memphis Zoological Society, 2000 Prentiss Place, Memphis, TN 38112, USA.

B Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 1500 Remount Road, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA.

C Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA.

D Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762, USA.

E Corresponding author. Email: blgocinski@gmail.com

Reproduction, Fertility and Development - https://doi.org/10.1071/RD16345
Submitted: 1 September 2016  Accepted: 26 June 2017   Published online: 3 August 2017

Abstract

Giant pandas have been described as mono-oestrus spring breeders, yet males exposed to aseasonal oestrous females in the autumn or winter exhibit breeding behaviours and interest in mating. In the present study, urinary androgens and sperm parameters were quantified for males exposed to females expressing oestrus during spring, autumn or winter to examine plasticity of reproductive seasonality in giant pandas. Monthly average androgen concentrations for two males exposed to females in either seasonal or aseasonal oestrus were greater (P < 0.001) than baseline concentrations. Evaluation of daily androgen concentrations revealed a peak that was three- to fivefold greater than baseline, occurring an average of 5 days before ovulation for both seasonal and aseasonal cycles. There were no significant differences in testes volume, sperm motility, forward progression or sperm concentration in males between female seasonal and aseasonal cycle years. Male gonadal activity was more variable without a clear pattern in years when the female was anovulatory than when she was ovulatory (seasonal or aseasonal). These data show the flexible reproductive capacity of male giant pandas as demonstrated by a rapid physiological readiness to mate in response to female oestrous cues within or outside the normal breeding season and may suggest a facultative seasonal reproduction with a ‘female-induced rut’.

Additional keywords: urinary hormones, testosterone, chemical communication, seasonality


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