Urinary profiles of progestin and androgen metabolites in female polar bears during parturient and non-parturient cycles
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Journal titleConservation Physiology
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AbstractDue to the environmental and anthropogenic impacts that continue to threaten the reproductive success of polar bears, a more detailed understanding of their reproductive cycle is needed. Captive populations of polar bears provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the reproductive physiology of the species. Progestin (P4) and androgen (T) metabolites in urine, and their ratio (P4:T), were examined during 11 reproductive cycles of captive female polar bears (n = 4) to characterize the steroid hormone profile during pregnancy and determine possible variations related to reproductive failure. The concentration of hormone metabolites in urine were determined through enzyme immunoassay. Reproductive cycles were classified as pregnant (n = 3), anovulatory (n = 4) and ovulatory-non-parturient (n = 4) based on the changes in urinary hormone metabolite values and cub production. In the absence of a lactational suppression of estrus, elevated androgen concentrations suggested resumption of follicular development within 3 weeks of parturition. Breeding behaviours were most often observed when androgen values were at their highest or in decline. Ovulation was identified by a return to basal androgen concentration and elevation of progestins within 1–4 weeks after breeding. As a result, urinary concentrations of progestins were greater than androgens (P4:T ratio ≥ 1.0) during ovulatory cycles whereas the P4:T ratio was <1.0 when females were anovulatory. Progestins and the P4:T ratio of parturient cycles were greatest beginning in June/July (17–20 weeks after breeding) and reached a peak at 24–37 weeks (mid-October/mid-November, 4–9 weeks before birth of cubs). Non-invasive monitoring of hormone metabolites in urine provided a rapid determination of endocrine function for improved husbandry and reproductive management of polar bears in captivity. Further research is warranted to understand the reproductive endocrinology of polar bears and its impact on conservation and management of this species in captivity and the wild.
Rights© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.