Tracking the Ovarian Cycle in Black-and-Gold Howlers (Alouatta caraya) by Measuring Fecal Steroids and Observing Vaginal Bleeding
A better understanding of a species’ reproductive physiology can help conservation programs to manage primates in the wild and develop assisted reproductive technologies in captivity. We investigated whether measurements of fecal progestin and estrogen metabolites obtained by a radioimmunoassay could be used to monitor the ovarian cycle of Alouatta caraya. We also compared the occurrence of vaginal bleeding with the hormone profiles. We collected fecal samples from 3 adult and 1 subadult captive female over 5 mo and performed vaginal cytology for the adults. The interval between fecal progestin surges in the adult females was 19.11 ± 2.14 d (n = 18 cycles). Fecal progestin concentrations remained at basal values for 9.83 ± 2.21 d (n = 18) and rose to elevated values for 9.47 ± 0.72 d (n = 19). The subadult female showed basal levels of fecal estrogen and progestin concentrations throughout the study, suggesting that our hormone measurements are valid to monitor the ovarian cycle. Bleeding periods coincided with basal levels of fecal estrogens and progestin at intervals of 19.8 ± 0.9 d and lasted for 4.1 ± 1.0 d. Although we obtained these data from only 3 individuals, the results indicate that this species likely has a menstrual-type ovarian cycle. These data provide the first endocrine profile for the Alouatta caraya ovarian cycle and are similar to results obtained for other howler species. This similarity is important for comparative studies of howlers, allowing for a better understanding of their reproductive physiology and contributing to a critical information base for managing Alouatta species.
KeywordsAlouatta caraya Fecal steroids Howler Ovarian cycle Vaginal bleeding
T. Kugelmeier was supported by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), contract grant no. 02/10920-5. This research complied with protocols approved by the animal care committees from both institutions involved in the study (CENP, represented by IEC, and FMVZ), and it was conducted in accordance with Brazilian law. We thank all of the technicians, workers, professors, and students who contributed to this study. We especially thank Drs. Diva A. A. Guimarães, Sheyla F. S. Domingues, Reinaldo A. Carvalho, Érika C. G. Felippe, and Priscila V. Furtado for their suggestions and technical support in this work. We thank Dr. Christina Wippich Whitman for her assistance with English writing corrections and Dr. Penelope L. Nayudu for suggestions and a technical English review. We also thank 2 anonymous reviewers and the editor for their constructive comments, which led to a much improved article.
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