Seasonal changes in reproductive development in male spiny mice (Acomys spinosissimus) from South Africa
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Seasonal reproduction is a common characteristic of many small mammals which inhabit seasonal environments in temperate regions, the sub-tropics as well as the tropics. It is important for an animal to reproduce during the most favourable time of the year to ensure the survival of the young and maximize reproductive success. In southern Africa, female spiny mice (Acomys spinosissimus) breed during the warm and wet spring and summer months, whereas the reproductive pattern of males is unknown although an opportunistic breeding pattern has been implicated. We investigated testes mass and volume, seminiferous tubule diameter, spermatogenesis and plasma testosterone concentrations in a South African population of male spiny mice on a 2-monthly basis over one year. Testes mass and volume started to increase in July/August and was high from September until December. Seminiferous tubule diameter and spermatogenesis increased during the same months. Plasma testosterone concentration was elevated from July/August to November/December. Development of the reproductive characteristics of male spiny mice was correlated with high rainfall and high ambient temperatures, but reproductive development had already started during the dry season and the coldest months. This shows that reproductive development in males may not be dependent on climatic conditions, and other factors, such as photoperiod, may trigger the onset of reproduction. The data, however, suggest that A. spinosissimus is a true seasonal breeder with reproduction confined to the spring and summer months in southern Africa.
- RESEARCH: Chimimba C