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Keywords:

  • felids;
  • testosterone;
  • cortisol;
  • leptin;
  • spermatozoa;
  • reproductive seasonality

Abstract

Pallas' cats (Otocolobus manul) have a pronounced reproductive seasonality controlled by photoperiod. Previous studies of reproduction in captive Pallas' cats exposed to natural light showed a breeding season of December–April. This study evaluated the impact of artificial lighting timed to simulate natural photoperiods on male reproductive seasonality of four Pallas' cats housed indoors. Semen evaluation, blood collection, and body weight measurements were conducted every 1–2 months from November 2000–June 2001. Fecal samples were collected from each male twice weekly to assess testosterone and corticoid concentrations. Mean values for reproductive traits (sperm attributes, testicular volume) were highest from February–April, the defined breeding season. Fecal testosterone concentrations were highest from mid-January to mid-March. Male Pallas' cats managed indoors under simulated photoperiods experienced a delayed onset of the breeding season by 1–2 months and a decreased length of the breeding season. Over the course of the study, fecal corticoid concentrations did not seem to differ among seasons. Although mating attempts during this study were unsuccessful, subsequent pairings of male and female Pallas' cats in the same research colony during the 2002 and 2003 breeding seasons produced viable offspring. These results suggest that male Pallas' cats, housed indoors under simulated photoperiods, exhibit distinct reproductive cyclic patterns, characterized by a delayed and truncated breeding season. Adrenocortical activity varied among individuals, but did not adversely affect reproductive parameters. Housing Pallas' cats indoors under simulated photoperiods may represent a viable strategy for maintaining breeding success while limiting disease exposure. Zoo Biol 0:1–13, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.