Previous studies of the gray short-tailed opossum have shown that ovarian activity and estrus are induced by male pheromones, but we recently documented urogenital sinus (UGS) estrus in postlactational females despite their isolation from the male stimuli known to be associated with induced estrus. Body weights and UGS smears were collected after removal of pups in midlactation (19–37 days postpartum), after weaning (55–61 days postpartum), or after pheromone exposure. Estradiol was measured by RIA in plasma samples collected from dams during lactation, after separation from pups, and at estrus. Average days to UGS estrus from pup removal or initial pheromone exposure differed (P < 0.05) only between the midlactation and pheromone exposure groups. Postlactational females showed a decrease in body weight from the time of pup removal or weaning to estrus, which contrasts with the increase seen in pheromonally stimulated females. Plasma estradiol was elevated at estrus in all groups, and females that were paired with males at postlactational estrus mated and produced litters. This study demonstrates that gray short-tailed opossums consistently experience estrus within 2 wk of weaning their young and that postlactational estrus appears to be hormonally and behaviorally equivalent to estrus induced by direct exposure to male pheromones.
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