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Biol Reprod. 1998 May;58(5):1117-22.

Puberty in the female tammar wallaby.

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Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


The growth and timing of female puberty in a seasonally breeding marsupial, the tammar wallaby, was examined in wild and captive animals. Puberty, defined as the time of first estrus and ovulation, can occur at any time of the year. Sixty percent of young wild females went through puberty in late October-November, 3 mo before the normal adult mating season in late January-February, but puberty was delayed in captive animals kept with a low ratio of males to females. During initial cycles, 19% of these captive animals were infertile as judged by failure to conceive. In the wild, puberty occurred well before the animals were fully grown (body weight 2.0+/-0.3 kg [mean+/-SD], n=23; adult females, 4.7+/-0.6 kg; n=34). Only 3% of animals with a body weight below 1.5 kg had ovulated. Thus, attainment of a minimum body weight was a key prerequisite associated with puberty. Progesterone concentrations in the peripheral plasma of prepubertal females were not significantly different from those of adult females during the nonbreeding season (prepubertal, 142+/-121 pg/ml, n=34; adult, 194+/-105 pg/ml, n=32, p > 0.05). However, there was a significant increase in progesterone (322+/-242 pg/ml, n=32, p < 0.05) in the postpubertal females (ovulating but still < 3.5 kg body weight) even though the corpus luteum was quiescent after its formation. There was no increase in plasma progesterone before the first estrus. These data confirm that estrus does not require a change in the progesterone:estradiol ratio, and that a "silent" ovulation does not precede the first estrus in this species, so that the onset of puberty coincides with the first behavioral estrus and ovulation, when the animals have reached a body weight of 2 kg. Although adult female tammars are strict seasonal breeders, with 6 mo of seasonal quiescence from the winter to the summer solstice, young females can go through puberty at any time of the year. The unique feature of the female tammar wallaby is that it does not become a seasonally breeding mammal until after puberty, when it has acquired a corpus luteum.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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