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L. M. Thurston, P. F. Watson, and W. V. Holt

There is evidence that the mammalian ejaculate contains distinct subpopulations of spermatozoa and that the variability among these subpopulations may have adaptive and functional significance. This study investigated the precision, reproducibility and operating characteristics of a novel automated sperm morphology analysis system, the Hobson Morphology package, establishing protocols to investigate boar sperm characteristics. Five ejaculates were collected from each of three boars from different genetic lines: Landrace–Meishan introgression, Sireline Large White and Damline Large White. Five semen smears per ejaculate were stained with haematoxylin and eosin. Two hundred spermatozoa per slide were analysed. No significant differences among slides within an ejaculate were detected for sperm tail length (P = 0.770), head width (P = 0.736) and head length (P = 0.615), indicating that both staining and morphology analysis were precise and reproducible. Among the boars, variability in tail length was detected (P = 0.001), but head width (P = 0.114) and length (P = 0.069) did not differ significantly. Multivariate pattern analysis (PATN computer package) highlighted three sub-populations of spermatozoa objectively on the basis of tail length (10.0–22.0 μm, 22.1–73.0 μm and 73.1–130.0 μm). The Landrace–Meishan introgression boar possessed more spermatozoa (P < 0.0001) with tails 73.1–130 μm long. Subsequent analysis of morphology parameters in a pure-bred Meishan boar showed similar measurements for tail length (mean ± sd; 66.36 ± 24.70 μm) to the Landrace–Meishan introgression boar (mean ± sd; 67.09 ±21.80 μm). Sperm subpopulations originate during spermatogenesis, when heterogeneous genotypic effects determine the structural features of spermatozoa. The findings of this study confirm that tail length differs between boars and that subpopulations of spermatozoa can be detected within a single ejaculate.

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T. E. Adams, J. F. Quirke, J. P. Hanrahan, B. M. Adams, and J. G. Watson

Summary. Rates of ovulation differed significantly (P < 0·01) among ewes of the different genetic lines. However, of the reproductive characteristics studied, only progesterone concentration at the height of luteal function, duration of oestrus, and interval from onset of oestrus to peak of the preovulatory gonadotrophin surge showed significant positive association with rate of ovulation. The pattern of secretion of LH during the periovulatory period did not differ in the Galway and Finnish Landrace breeds. The total amount of LH secreted during the preovulatory surge did not differ amongst lines. Similarly, no difference in the plasma concentration of LH at the height of the preovulatory surge was noted among Galway and reference Finnish Landrace lines. However, the concentration of LH at the height of the surge was significantly (P < 0·05) reduced in the selected Finnish Landrace line. Plasma concentrations of FSH during the preovulatory period were significantly (P < 0·05) elevated in the breed (Galway) with the lowest prolificacy. When contrasted with either of the Finnish Landrace lines, the magnitudes of the preovulatory surge of FSH and the secondary surge of FSH were significantly greater (P < 0·05) in Galway ewes. These results suggest that genetic difference in rate of ovulation among sheep breeds is not tightly coupled to quantitative differences in plasma concentration of gonadotrophic hormones during the periovulatory period.

Keywords: gonadotrophins; periovulatory period; ovulation rate; prolific sheep