Summary. Female brush-tailed bettongs, Bettongia penicillata, were housed with either an intact or vasectomized male or isolated from males in the peripartum period. Development of the quiescent corpus luteum formed at the post partum oestrus was initiated by removing the pouch young. Blood samples for analysis of plasma progesterone were collected from the females 2 days before removal of pouch young, daily for 5 or 6 days and then 2·3 times each week until 19 days after removal of pouch young.
Plasma progesterone profiles were similar in pregnant and nonpregnant cycles. There was an early progesterone peak (1206 ± 121 pg ml−1, mean ± sem; n = 16) between days 2 and 5 after removal of pouch young, and a second period of high concentrations (> 800 pg ml−1) before birth on day 17·4 ± 0·2 (n = 16). The interval between the early peak and birth was 14 or 15 days. On five of 34 occasions, no increases in plasma progesterone concentrations occurred after removal of pouch young.
On 12 of 15 occasions for 13 females that had been isolated from males post partum, plasma progesterone concentrations also remained low (< 100 pg ml−1) and did not change after removal of pouch young. Females that showed no increases in plasma progesterone concentration after removal of pouch young had significantly lower (P < 0·001) plasma progesterone concentrations while lactating than those females that did undergo a cycle after removal of pouch young (60 ± 4 pg ml−1, n = 17 and 225 ± 23 pg ml−1, n = 30, respectively). Females isolated from males post partum, and monitored until day 12 after removal of the pouch young, and that showed no increases in progesterone in this period, had ovaries that contained no corpus luteum, only corpora albicantia and numerous atretic or developing follicles.
We conclude that brush-tailed bettongs are induced ovulators, a characteristic described for only one other marsupial, Monodelphis domestica, from South America.
Keywords: pregnancy; oestrous cycle; marsupial; brush-tailed bettong