Ovarian Cycle and Effect of Social Changes on Adrenal and Ovarian Function in Pygathrix nemaeus

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To assist captive breeding of the endangered red-shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus), basic knowledge on female reproductive physiology is important. We aimed 1) to characterize the pattern of fecal estrogens and progestogens during the ovarian cycle and 2) to use the information to provide reliable data on ovarian cycle characteristics. Moreover, we examined the potential impact of a change in group composition on ovarian activity and adrenal function, the latter being measured by fecal glucocorticoid excretion. We collected fecal samples during 2 mo from 5 adult females of 3 groups under undisturbed conditions and from the same 5 adult females and 2 juvenile females and 2 adult males during 3 mo during which there were changes in housing and group composition. During the undisturbed period, measurement of fecal 5-P-3OH, a major progesterone metabolite, and total estrogens revealed in all adult females a cyclic pattern, from which we documented a cycle length of 26.4 ± 1.8 days, comprising a follicular phase of 13.1 ± 2.9 days and a luteal phase of 14.8 ± 1.2 days. In contrast, during the period of social changes, 3 of the 5 females showed clear signs of cycle irregularity as indicated by extended follicular phases, abbreviated luteal phases and/or anovulation. Moreover, the period of social changes was associated with an overall significant elevation in fecal glucocorticoid excretion. Our data provide the first detailed information on the endocrine characterization of the ovarian cycle in Pygathrix nemaeus and suggest that social changes have the potential to impair ovarian function, likely as a result of increased activation of the HPA-axis due to stressful situations. However, because of relatively small sample size, particularly concerning the latter finding, more data are needed to confirm these results.

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