We had the pleasure of collaborating with the University of Queensland on this research project. Our collaborative work was published in the Journal of General and Comparative Endocrinology, Volume 261, in May 2018.
To read the full article, please click here.
Also available online at DOI: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.01.021
Although southern hairy-nosed wombats (SHN wombats; Lasiorhinus latifrons) rarely breed in captivity, further knowledge of their reproductive physiology and behavior is likely to improve their breeding potential. This study examined the effect of seasonal variation and changes in social dynamics on the physiology and behavior of a captive population of male SHN wombats (n = 6). Seasonal changes in urinary testosterone metabolites (UTM), urinary cortisol metabolites (UCM), qualitative estimates of spermatorrhoea (QS), aggressive behavior and reproductive behavior were measured over an 11-month period. While there was no effect of month on QS (GLM ANOVA, P = 0.27), reproductive behavior (GLM ANOVA, P = 0.19) or aggressive behavior (Tukey pairwise comparisons), the secretion of UTM (GLM ANOVA, P = 0.051) was only marginally affected by season, compared to that reported for wild male SHN wombats.
Mean UCM concentrations of July and August 2016 were significantly higher than those between October 2015 and January 2016 (Tukey pairwise comparisons). To examine social dynamics, two trials of animal positioning exchange with the enclosure system were implemented and behavioral data were examined for each trial over a six week period; UTM, UCM and general behaviors (n = 27) were measured for each trial. Neither UTM nor UCM concentration varied significantly (P ≥ 0.45) before and after the exchanges. “Scratching” decreased at the group level following the animal exchange in both trials, suggesting reduction in self-grooming may be a behavioral response to novel stimuli. UCM and UTM concentrations were both positively correlated with “standing still” and “body rub” behaviors. This may be evidence of a hormonal control of a “freezing behavioral response” to external stimuli and marking behavior, respectively.
As there was no evidence that changing the social dynamics affected reproductive or agonistic behavior or hormone concentrations, it was concluded that captive male wombats in this study showed reduced reproductive seasonality compared to wild wombats and that animal exchange resulted in a behavioral response to novel stimuli but was not sufficient to affect testosterone or cortisol secretion, within the context of our study.