CZAAWE Resource Article

Characterization of basal seminal traits and reproductive endocrine profiles in North American river otters and Asian small-clawed otters
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.20206.abs In this study, fecal samples were collected from 24 North American river (NARO) and 17 Asian small-clawed otters (ASCO) for 6–36 months and semen collected seasonally from NARO males (n=4/season) via electroejaculation. Our main objectives were to: (1) characterize endocrine parameters by longitudinal monitoring of fecal hormone metabolites and (2) investigate semen collection and basal seminal traits in NARO. NARO demonstrated a distinct seasonality in the spring, with females having a monoestrual estrogen elevation lasting 15.33±1.98 (mean±SEM) days and males peaking in testosterone production for 25.50±7.51 days. Pregnancy was characterized by 7–9 months of basal fecal progesterone, presumably corresponding to embryonic diapause, followed by a rapid increase over the final 68–73 days to term. Pseudopregnancy exhibited a similar late winter progesterone peak of 68–72 days, which could not be differentiated from pregnancy. Geographic latitude possibly influenced the timing of increased testosterone in males and increased progesterone in pregnant/pseudopregnant females. In ASCO, monitoring of fecal estrogens did not allow consistent detection of peak values associated with behavioral estrus. Both pregnancy and pseudopregnancy were characterized by a moderate rise in fecal progesterone for 14–16 days postovulation followed by a marked increase. Total gestation length was 67–77 days compared with 62–84 days for pseudopregnancy. In NARO, optimal sperm recovery and quality occurred only in the spring, corresponding with seasonal increases in testicular volume and fecal testosterone. These findings represent the first comprehensive information on normative endocrine and seminal traits in freshwater otter species. Zoo Biol 28:107–126, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.