Changes in semen quality and morphology of the reproductive tract of the male tammar wallaby parallel seasonal breeding activity in the female

Damien Paris, David Taggart, Geoff Shaw, Peter Temple-Smith, Marilyn Renfree

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13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Changes in semen quality and morphology of the male reproductive tract were studied throughout the year in the highly promiscuous tammar wallaby. Body size, semen quality and gross morphology of the reproductive organs were assessed in adult males each month from January to November. The mean weight of males was similar in most periods sampled, but males were slightly heavier in the minor (P <0.05) than the non-breeding season. Since body weight was correlated with weights of the testes, epididymides and accessory sex glands, organ weights were adjusted for body weight in subsequent analyses. In the major breeding season (late January/early February), when most females go through a brief, highly synchronized oestrus, the testes, prostate, Cowper s glands, crus penis and urethral bulb were heaviest, volume and coagulation of ejaculates were greatest, and sperm motility had increased. Semen samples collected by electroejaculation at this time contained low numbers of spermatozoa, possibly as a result of dilution and entrapment by the seminal coagulum or depletion of epididymal stores during intense multiple mating activity. In the non-breeding season (late May-July), when mating does not normally occur in the wild, there was a significant decrease in the relative weight of nearly all male reproductive organs and a decline in most semen parameters. In the minor breeding season (September-November), when pubertal females undergo their first oestrus and mating, the weights of testes, epididymides and most accessory sex glands had significantly increased similar to those of males in the major breeding season. The total number and motility of ejaculated spermatozoa were highest during this period, but the volume and coagulation of ejaculates and weight of the prostate had only increased to levels that were intermediate between the major and non-breeding seasons. Ejaculate volume was strongly correlated with prostate weight, and motile spermatozoa was strongly correlated with epididymis weight. Semen quality thus varied seasonally with changes in androgen-dependent reproductive organs in the male tammar wallaby and appeared to be influenced by the seasonal timing of oestrus in females. Semen quality may also improve in response to an increase in the number of available oestrous females. A? 2005 Society for Reproduction and Fertility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367 - 378
Number of pages12
JournalReproduction
Volume130
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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