The female giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) experiences a brief (24–72 h) seasonal estrus, occurring once annually in spring (February–May). Our aim was to determine the existence and temporal profile of reproductive seasonality in the male of this species. The study was facilitated by 3 yr of access to eight giant panda males living in a large breeding center in China. Seasonal periods for the male were defined on the basis of female reproductive activity as prebreeding, breeding (early, peak, late), and nonbreeding seasons. Testes size, fecal androgen excretion, ejaculated sperm density, and frequency of reproductive behaviors (i.e., locomotion, scent marking, vocalizations) increased (P < 0.05) from the prebreeding period (October 1–January 31) to the early breeding season (February 1–March 21). Testes volume and sperm concentration were maximal from March 22 through April 15, a period coinciding with maximal female breeding activity. The occurrence of male reproductive behaviors and fecal androgen concentrations began declining during peak breeding and continued from April 16 through May 31 (late breeding period), returning to nadir throughout the nonbreeding interval (June 1–September 30). Reproductive quiescence throughout the latter period was associated with basal testes size/volume and aspermic ejaculates. Our results reveal that testes morphometry, fecal androgen excretion, seminal quality, and certain behaviors integrated together clearly demonstrate reproductive seasonality in the male giant panda. The coordinated increases in testes size, androgen production, sperm density, and sexual behaviors occur over a protracted interval, likely to prepare for and then accommodate a brief, unpredictable female estrus.
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Vol. 86 • No. 6