Phase delay of the natural photoperiod alters reproductive timing in the marsupial Antechinus stuartii


*Department of Physiology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia


The dasyurid marsupial Antechinus stuartii (20–40 g) has a brief, highly synchronized mating period in spring followed by complete male mortality. Analysis of breeding times in nature suggests that the rate of change of photoperiod is the main Zeitgeber for reproductive timing in this species. To test this hypothesis the natural photoperiod was phase delayed by two months, one experiment beginning in late summer, and the other in the autumn, before the spring breeding period.

The reproductive cycle of males and females exposed to the delay in summer was synchronously delayed by two months, coincident with the exact duration of the delay. Animals exposed to the two month phase delay in autumn also exhibited a delay in reproductive timing, but it was less synchronized than either the control or the other experimental group. Reproduction in control animals exposed to natural photoperiod was synchronous with that of a wild population monitored simultaneously. It is therefore likely that the rate of change of photoperiod is the dominant Zeitgeber for the reproductive cycle in this species.