Monitoring ovarian cycles, pregnancy and post-partum in captive marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus) by measuring fecal steroids
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The marsh deer is an endangered species from the marshlands of central South America. This study aimed to characterize certain aspects of the reproductive physiology of marsh deer hinds, including the duration and fecal progestins profile of the estrous cycle, pregnancy and post-partum periods, and evaluate the effect of cloprostenol administration on this species. The experimental group consisted of six females and one fertile male marsh deer. During monitoring of the estrous cycle, the fresh fecal samples were collected daily and, during pregnancy, they were collected twice weekly. The hormonal profile obtained from daily fecal samples indicated that the mean duration of the estrous cycle was 21.3 +/- 1.3 days (6.4 days inter-luteal phase and 14.8 days luteal phase; n = 16 estrous cycles). The mean concentration of fecal progestins in the inter-luteal phase was 834 +/- 311 ng g(-1), in the luteal phase was 3979 +/- 1611 ng g(-1), value between them was 1457 ng g(-1). No significant difference in fecal estrogen concentrations was determined during the estrous cycle. The corpora luteum was not responsive to cloprostenol until Day 6 of the estrous cycle, the period previously described as the inter-luteal phase. Half the females became pregnant following treatment with cloprostenol and two others were fertilized in their natural estrous cycle. Four females delivered fawns, and the mean duration of pregnancy was 253 +/- 4 days. Fecal progestin concentrations were similar to those of the estrous cycle during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy and increased significantly (> 15250 ng g(-1)) thereafter, providing a presumptive diagnosis guideline. Within 60 days of post-partum analyses, 75% of the deer exhibited behavioural estrus and/or ovarian activity. This study generated a broader understanding of the marsh deer species concerning the production of consistent data related to its reproduction. This knowledge can be used to assist the reproductive management of this species and, consequently, to promote its conservation.