We characterized the reproductive cycle of Octodon degus to determine whether reproductive maturation is spontaneous in juveniles and if ovarian cyclicity and luteal function are spontaneous in adults. Laboratory-reared prepubertal and adult females were monitored for vaginal patency and increased wheel-running. Sexual receptivity was assessed by pairing adult females with a male 1) continuously, 2) at the time of vaginal patency, or 3) following estradiol treatment. Blood samples were assayed for estradiol and progesterone concentrations on Days 1, 4, 8, and 16 relative to vaginal opening. Ovarian tissues were collected 6 and 16 days after behavioral estrus and 6 days after copulation for histology. In juveniles, the onset of cyclic vaginal patency and increased wheel-running activity was spontaneous, occurred in the absence of proximal male cues, and appeared at regular intervals (17.5 ± 1.4 days). In adults, vaginal patency and increased wheel-running occurred cyclically (21.2 ± 0.6 days) in the absence of proximal male cues, and these traits predicted the time of sexual receptivity. Corpora lutea develop spontaneously and are maintained for 12–14 days. The ovaries had well-developed corpora lutea 6 days after mating and 6 days after estrus without mating. Progesterone concentrations were highest in the second half of the cycle when corpora lutea were present and estradiol concentrations peaked on the day of estrus. Thus, female degus appear to exhibit a spontaneous reproductive cycle consistent with other Hystricognathi rodents. Octodon degus is a novel model with which to examine the mechanisms underlying different reproductive cycles.
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Vol. 84 • No. 4