The springbok is an arid-adapted antelope inhabiting the desert and semidesert regions of southern Africa. Because it thrives in these sparsely vegetated areas, the springbok is of potential agricultural importance and the prospect of domestication has been speculated for many years. However, apart from observational studies on its breeding in the wild, suggesting it is an aseasonal breeder, little is known about the underlying reproductive endocrinology of this species. In this study, biweekly peripheral blood samples were collected from eight captive springbok ewes from October 1995 until September 1998 and analyzed for progesterone. At the start of the study, six ewes were prepubertal and cycling commenced spontaneously between November 1995 and June 1996. Cycling had already commenced in two ewes. At the end of November 1996, estrous cycles ceased abruptly in all ewes and restarted in April 1997. Cycling ceased again between December 1997 and February 1998 and restarted in June 1998 in six ewes; there was no cessation of estrous cycles in two ewes. Thus, although some individuals cycle continuously, there is a clear endocrine anestrus of between 4 and 5 mo in springbok, the timing and duration of which is synchronized between some individuals but the time of onset and cessation is variable from year to year. To ensure that the fluctuations we observed in progesterone levels were reliable indicators of changes in the estrous cycle, blood samples were collected every 6 h for 16 days in August 1998. A surge in LH secretion was observed in all ewes 55 ± 5 h after the fall in progesterone. Progesterone levels increased again 45 ± 8 h after the surge. A final study showed that the pattern of melatonin release in springbok exhibits a normal day/night profile, and thus photoperiodic information is transformed into an endocrine code to springbok but does not appear to affect reproduction. Rather, our data raise the possibility that the prevailing ambient temperature may influence the onset of ovarian activity in this species.
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