Influence of vitamin E and carcass feeding supplementation on fecal glucocorticoid and androgen metabolites in male black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes).
ABSTRACT: In recent years, the ex situ population of the endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes; ferret) has experienced a decline in normal sperm morphology (from 50% to 20%), which may be linked to inbreeding depression and/or a dietary change. We examined the effects of adding carcass and vitamin E to the diet on stress and reproductive biomarkers in male ferrets (n = 42 males including 16 juveniles and 26 adults) housed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center (Carr, CO, USA). Fecal samples (3x/week) were collected from November and December (pre-breeding season, no diet change), February through May (breeding season, diet change) and June (post-breeding season, diet change) and analyzed for fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM) via a corticosterone enzyme immunoassay (EIA). A subset of samples from adult males (n = 15) were analyzed for fecal androgen metabolites (FAM) via a testosterone EIA. We first used a linear mixed effects model to identify the important fixed effects among meat treatment, vitamin E treatment, age class (juvenile or adult), and all possible interactions on each hormone. We then examined the important factor's effects across seasons using the non-parametric Friedman test. We found that age did not influence (p = 0.33) FGMs; however there was a significant effect of meat treatment on FGM (p = 0.04) and an effect of vitamin E on FAMs (p<0.10). When fed carcass, FGMs declined (p<0.001) from pre- to the during the breeding season time period, but was similar (p>0.05) between during and post-breeding season periods. Males that were not fed carcass had higher (p<0.05) FGMs during the breeding season compared to pre- and post-breeding season and FGMs were lower (p<0.05) in the post-breeding season compared to pre-breeding season. Males fed with carcass had lower (p<0.001) FGM than males that were not fed carcass during both the pre-breeding and the breeding season but not during the post-breeding season (p>0.05). Males supplemented with vitamin E had higher (p<0.001) FAM than non-supplemented males during the breeding season only. For both groups, FAM was highest (p<0.05) during the breeding season. In conclusion, adding carcass to the diet can reduce glucocorticoid production and adding vitamin E can increase testosterone during the breeding season, which may influence reproductive success.
Project description:There is limited physiological information on onset of puberty in male lions. The aim of this study was to use longitudinal non-invasive monitoring to: 1) assess changes in steroid metabolite excretory patterns as a function of age and body weight; 2) determine correlations between fecal androgen (FAM) and glucocorticoid (FGM) metabolite concentrations; and 3) confirm spermiogenesis non-invasively through urinalysis. Specifically, FAM and FGM metabolites were analyzed in samples collected twice weekly from 21 male lions at 17 institutions (0.9-16 years of age) for 3.8 months- 2.5 years to assess longitudinal hormone patterns. In addition, body weights were obtained approximately monthly from 10 individuals at five zoos (0.0-3.0 years), and urine was collected from six males at two facilities (1.2-6.3 years) and evaluated for the presence of spermatozoa. An increase in overall mean FAM occurred at 2.0 years of age, at which point concentrations remained similar throughout adulthood. The onset of puberty occurred earlier in captive-born males (<1.2 years of age) compared to wild-born counterparts (<2.5 years of age). Additionally, males in captivity gained an average of 7.3 kg/month compared to 3.9 kg/month for wild males over the first 2-2.5 years of age. Sperm (spermaturia) was observed in males as young as 1.2 years in captivity compared to 2.5 years in the wild (ejaculates). There was no difference in FAM or FGM concentrations with regards to age or season. Overall, this study demonstrates that: 1) captive male lions attain puberty at an earlier age than wild counterparts; 2) onset of puberty is influenced by body weight (growth rate); and 3) spermiogenesis can be confirmed via urinalysis. Knowledge about the linkage between body weight and onset of puberty could facilitate improved reproductive management of ex situ populations via mitigating the risk of unintended breedings in young animals.
Project description:Understanding the reproductive biology of the roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803) is crucial to optimise breeding success in captive breeding programmes of this threatened species. In this study, the pattern of faecal androgen metabolite (fAM) production related to reproductive events (calving or birthing, mating, gestation, and lactation), sexual behaviours as well as environmental cues were studied in captive adult male roan antelope. Faecal sample collection and behavioural observations were carried out from August 2017 to July 2018 for three reproductive males participating in a conservation breeding programme at the Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve in South Africa. As a prerequisite, the enzyme immunoassay used in this study was biologically validated for the species by demonstrating a significant difference between fAM concentrations in non-breeding adults, breeding adults and juvenile males. Results revealed that in adults males, the overall mean fAM levels were 73% higher during the breeding period compared to the non-breeding periods, and 85% higher when exclusively compared to the lactation/gestation periods, but only 5.3% higher when compared to the birthing period. Simultaneously, fAM concentrations were lower during the wet season compared to the dry season, increasing with a reduction in photoperiod. With the exception of courtship, frequencies of sexual behaviours monitored changed in accordance with individual mean fAM concentrations in male roan antelope, the findings suggest that androgen production varies with the occurrence of mating activity and may be influenced by photoperiod but not with rainfall.