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

Seasonal reproduction in flying foxes, reviewed in the context of other tropical mammals

GM O'Brien

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 5(5) 499 - 521
Published: 1993


Megachiroptera inhabit the Old World tropics and most are seasonal breeders having defined times of testis growth, mating and parturition. In Pteropus scapulatus, the little red flying fox, the robust rhythm of testis cycles is resistant to modification by photoperiod. P. poliocephalus, the greyheaded flying fox, can be manipulated by photoperiod but responds slowly and incompletely. Most mammals live in the tropics, many in seasonally harsh climates, and many breed seasonally. However, few long-lived tropical mammals have been investigated for photoperiodic entrainment of annual reproductive cycles, and only animals from the edge of the tropics have responded. Thus, in long-lived tropical mammals, factors that regulate seasonal breeding have not yet been identified. Endogenous oscillators may generate circannual rhythms centrally. Downstream pathways (reproduction, metabolism, antlers, etc.) may derive their rhythm directly from the oscillator or may be modified by environmental cues. Plasticity of the circannual oscillator resolves confusion from previous contrasts between circannual rhythms and environmentally cued patterns. Plasticity may continue throughout life (species responsive to zeitgebers), but the oscillator may be 'set' in utero in some tropical species. Feedback effects from temperature, nutrition, hormones, etc. can be readily tested in this model of an oscillator generating an endogenous circannual rhythm.

© CSIRO 1993

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