Control of ovulation in female giant mole-rats Fukomys mechowii (Rodentia

Bathyergidae), and phylogenetic trends within the family

C. G. Faulkes, A. M. Sichilima, J. van Sandwyk, H. Lutermann, N. C. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The giant mole-rat Fukomys mechowii is a cooperatively breeding, subterranean rodent inhabiting the Miombo woodland and savanna of south-central Africa, with reproduction occurring throughout the year. Across species within the family Bathyergidae, ovulation can be either induced by mating or spontaneous and the particular mechanism may correlate with patterns of seasonality, dispersal and opportunities for mating. We investigate the control of ovulation in F. mechowii, a species closely related to a spontaneously ovulating species but found in a habitat more typical of mole-rats with induced ovulation. Six wild-caught, non-reproductive females were removed from their natal colonies and non-invasively monitored for ovarian cyclicity by measuring urinary progesterone every 2 days, over 217 days. All six females had elevated progesterone profiles indicative of the luteal phase of the ovarian cycle, whether singly housed, separated from a male by a mesh screen (i.e. non-physical contact), or paired with a vasectomised male (full physical contact), although progesterone concentrations were significantly enhanced in the latter condition. Together with observations that male penile morphology is similar to other spontaneously ovulating bathyergids, these results strongly suggest that while ovarian cyclicity may occur spontaneously in F. mechowii, the presence of a male may have an additional stimulatory effect on ovulation. Comparative phylogenetic analysis revealed a positive correlation between seasonality in breeding and induced ovulation. Furthermore, a likelihood-based reconstruction suggests that induced ovulation is the ancestral state for the Bathyergidae and that this trait has been convergently lost in at least two lineages, giving rise to a spontaneous mode of ovulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Zoology
Volume282
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Bathyergidae
mole rats
Rodentia
ovulation
phylogenetics
phylogeny
cyclicity
seasonality
breeding
progesterone
periodicity
savanna
rodent
woodland
Central Africa
family
trend
corpus luteum
habitat
savannas

Keywords

  • African mole-rat
  • Bathyergidae
  • Cryptomys
  • Fukomys
  • Induced ovulation
  • Ovarian cyclicity
  • Penile ornamentation
  • Progesterone
  • Spontaneous ovulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Control of ovulation in female giant mole-rats Fukomys mechowii (Rodentia : Bathyergidae), and phylogenetic trends within the family. / Faulkes, C. G.; Sichilima, A. M.; van Sandwyk, J.; Lutermann, H.; Bennett, N. C.

In: Journal of Zoology, Vol. 282, No. 1, 09.2010, p. 64-74.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Faulkes, C. G. ; Sichilima, A. M. ; van Sandwyk, J. ; Lutermann, H. ; Bennett, N. C. / Control of ovulation in female giant mole-rats Fukomys mechowii (Rodentia : Bathyergidae), and phylogenetic trends within the family. In: Journal of Zoology. 2010 ; Vol. 282, No. 1. pp. 64-74.
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