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Non-invasive assessment of reproductive status in Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis): Correlation with sexual behaviour

Nicht-invasive Abschätzung des Fortpflanzungsstatus beim chinesischen Wasserreh (Hydropotes inermis): Korrelation mit Sexualverhalten

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Abstract

The annual reproductive cycle of Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis), a nearly threatened small cervid species, was studied by means of fecal steroid analysis coupled with behavioural observations. Data showed a clearly seasonal reproductive pattern. In adult males, the onset of androgen secretion, in October, was concomitant with the first manifestations of territoriality. Androgen metabolites concentrations reached significant peak values in December, when matings occurred. In mature females, there was a close synchrony in reproductive states: lactational/seasonal anoestrus from June to November, pregnancy from December to May. Fecal progesterone metabolites profiles suggested that silent ovulations occurred at the onset of breeding season and that females conceived at their first ovulation with behavioural estrus. The female sexual receptivity state might last only a few hours. High levels of sniffing, parades and pursuits, concomitant of the highest concentrations of androgen, could allow the males to detect the furtive estrus in the females present in their territory. We concluded that the non-invasive method applied for the first time in this species was useful for the evaluation of the endocrine status and its relation with behaviour.

Zusammenfassung

Der jährliche Fortpflanzungszyklus chinesischer Wasserrehe (Hydropotes inermis), einer kleinen Hirschart, die beinahe als bedroht einzustufen ist, wurde mittels Analyse des Steroidinhalts im Kot zusammen mit Verhaltensbeobachtungen untersucht. Die Daten zeigten ein deutliches jahreszeitliches Fortpflanzungsmuster. Bei erwachsenen Männchen ging der Beginn der Testosteronausschüt-tungen im Oktober mit den ersten Anzeichen von Revierverhalten einher. Signifikante Höchstwerte der Testosteronkonzentrationen wurden im Dezember erreicht, als Begattungen stattfanden. Bei erwachsenen Weibchen war der Fortpflanzungsstand eng synchron: Laktation/jahreszeitlicher Anöstrus von Juni bis November, Trächtigkeit von Dezember bis Mai. Durchschnittswerte von Progesteron deuteten darauf hin, daß bei Beginn der Fortpflanzungszeit stille” Eisprünge ” stattfanden, sowie daß die Weibchen beim ersten Eisprung mit östrus trächtig wurden. Zeitweilig dauerte die weibliche Paarungswilligkeit nur wenige Stunden. Das besonders häufig beobachtete Beriechen, Imponierlaufen und Verfolgen, das gleichzeitig mit den höchsten Konzentrationen von Testosteron vorkam, hat den Männchen möglicherweise erlaubt, den verdeckten östrus bei den im Revier anwesenden Weibchen aufzuspüren. Wir folgern daraus, daß die erstmalig bei dieser Art angewandte, nicht invasive Vorgehensweise eine nützliche Methode ist zur Abschätzung des endokrinen Status und seiner Beziehung zum Verhalten.

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Mauget, R., Mauget, C., Dubost, G. et al. Non-invasive assessment of reproductive status in Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis): Correlation with sexual behaviour. Mamm Biol 72, 14–26 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mambio.2006.04.005

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