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Keywords:

  • fecal steroids;
  • hormones;
  • estrogens;
  • progestogens;
  • androgens;
  • estrous cycle;
  • pregnancy;
  • artificial insemination;
  • seasonality;
  • testis

Abstract

Fecal samples were collected for 14–26 months from three male and six female Pallas' cats (Otocolobus manul) to examine gonadal steroidogenic activity in response to changes in photoperiod and treatment with exogenous gonadotropins. Females exhibited a seasonal anestrus from May–December, excreting consistently low concentrations of fecal estrogens (overall mean, 50.2±8.5 ng/g). During the breeding season (January–April), baseline fecal estrogen concentrations were higher, averaging 128.4±18.9 ng/g, with peak concentrations ranging from 455.8–909.6 ng/g. Interpeak intervals in estrogen excretion ranged between 7 and 21 days, with an average estrous cycle length of 14.3±1.7 days. Two females became pregnant after natural mating, with overall luteal progestogen concentrations averaging ∼40 μg/g throughout gestation. Fecal estrogens increased in mid-gestation, peaking just before birth. Induction of follicular development with eCG (100–300 IU, i.m.) resulted in an increase in fecal estrogens (peak range, 263.1–1198.1 ng/g), followed by a postovulatory increase in fecal progestogens (overall mean, 41.1±11.9 μg/g) after hCG (75–150 IU, i.m.). Despite apparently normal ovarian responses, none of the females conceived after artificial insemination (AI). The gonadotropin-induced nonpregnant luteal phase lasted 49.8±5.3 days (range, 30–60 days), whereas gestation lasted ∼70 days. In the male Pallas' cat, fecal androgens were elevated from November–April (overall mean, 352.3±30.3 ng/g) compared with nadir concentrations during the rest of the year (82.1±3.3 ng/g). Entrainment of seasonality to photoperiod was demonstrated by stimulation of gonadal steroidogenic activity in cats exposed to increasing artificial light during natural (nonbreeding season) and artificially induced short-day photoperiods. In summary, reproduction in Pallas' cats is highly seasonal and photoperiod-dependent. Females exhibit elevated baseline and peak fecal estrogen concentrations for 3–4 months during late winter/early spring. Testicular steroidogenic activity precedes the rise in female estrogen excretion by about 2 months, presumably to ensure maximal sperm production during the breeding season. Zoo Biol 21:347–364, 2002. Published 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.