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Keywords:

  • Hawaiian monk seal;
  • Monachus schauinslandi;
  • reproduction;
  • ovarian histology;
  • corpora lutea;
  • estrous cycle

ABSTRACT

Ovaries from 14 female Hawaiian monk seals, O-24 yr of age, collected from the northwestern Hawaiian Islands were analyzed by gross and histological examination for the presence of corpora hemorrhagica (CH), lutea (CL), albicantia (CA), and dominant follicles. Seven seals, 5-24 yr of age, were mature females, and another seven seals, O-5 yr of age, were immature based on the presence or absence of CL and CA in the ovaries. Two 5-yr-old seals did not have CL and CA, but one J-yr-old and both 6-yr-old seals had CL or CA. In addition, the weight of the more active ovary increased at 5 yr of age, indicating that puberty in these female Hawaiian monk seals occurred about 5 yr of age. The total number of CL and CA was significantly correlated to the ovarian weight, but not age of the seals, indicating that visible CA of Hawaiian monk seals probably degenerate within a year. If an ovulation resulted in pregnancy, we assumed that the resulting CL from that pregnancy persisted throughout gestation and regressed approximately 2 yr after ovulation. However, the CL of pregnancy were not easily differentiated from cyclic CL that did not result in pregnancy. Four of seven mature seals were clearly polyestrous from the analyses of their ovaries and reproductive histories. The remaining three seals were pregnant in previous consecutive years, and we could not positively determine whether they were also polyestrous. The ovaries from Hawaiian monk seals had unusually large, rounded granular cells containing the aging pigment, lipofuscin. These cells were located between loose fibrous tissues in all regressing CL and CA but were not present in any CH.