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Horm Behav. 2004 Nov;46(4):392-8.

Fecal androgens of bison bulls during the rut.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, CA 92106, USA. mikemooring@ptloma.edu

Abstract

The influence of sex hormones is a key proximate factor underlying male reproductive behavior in mammals. Effective conservation policies for the remaining purebred plains bison (Bison bison bison) herds require knowledge of the physiology underlying bison reproductive biology. We used fecal steroid analysis to characterize androgen levels in adult bison bulls before, during, and after the rut, and to examine androgen levels of bulls differing in reproductive status, age, and mating success. Fieldwork was carried out at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Nebraska. All adult bison in the herd were individually known by unique brands. Fecal samples were collected during 2003 from bulls during pre-rut (June), rut (July-August), and post-rut (September), and behavioral observations focused on reproductive status and mating success during the rut. Matched sample data indicated that androgen levels (ng/g feces) of bulls peaked during the rut, doubling from pre-rut to rut and then declining by 75% during post-rut. Dominant bulls that tended (guarded) cows maintained higher androgen levels than bulls that were not tending. There was a positive correlation between bull age (associated with mating success) and androgens, with higher androgen levels in prime-aged bulls compared with younger bulls. Nonetheless, there was no correlation between mating success (measured by number of copulations observed) and androgen level. This suggests that while androgens may provide the proximate motivation to compete for matings, other factors determine the mating success of bison bulls.

PMID:
15465524
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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