Summary. Prepubertal red deer hinds were subjected to shortened daily photoperiod (8 h light per day, N = 3) or a daily (afternoon) melatonin injection (N = 4) for 83 days starting on 8 January, 2 weeks after the summer solstice. Compared with control hinds (N = 3) these treatments caused premature moulting of summer pelage, reduced serum prolactin concentrations to barely detectable levels about 34 days earlier than usual and advanced the date of mating. Calves were born earlier (P < 0·005) in the hinds exposed to a shortened photoperiod (12 November ± 1·7 days) and melatonin treatment (11 November ± 3·2 days) than in control hinds (13 December ± 7·9 days). Serum progesterone levels recorded before the first detected oestrus indicated that silent ovulations had occurred in many of the hinds (6 of 10) in this experiment. This study demonstrated the role of shortened daily photoperiod in red deer and indicated that the effects of reduced photoperiod observed were mediated by melatonin.
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J. R. Webster, J. M. Suttie, and I. D. Corson
Summary. Red deer stags were treated with melatonin implants in 2 experiments designed to examine the control of reproductive seasonality. In Exp. 1, stags (n = 24) were allocated to 4 treatment groups: 2 groups were treated with 3 implants per stag each month from 8 November to 5 February (EM) or 9 December to 5 February (LM), 1 untreated group of control stags remained with the melatonin-treated stags (CC) and the other untreated control group remained isolated (IC). Melatonin treatment advanced the seasonal changes in scrotal circumference, liveweight, antler state and coat type compared with control stags. The extent of advancement was greater in EM than LM stags. In EM and LM stags, size of testes regressed rapidly and antlers were cast shortly after melatonin implants became exhausted in March. This was followed by an additional antler cycle and reproductive development and decline from June to November. EM and LM stags became synchronized with control stags 14–15 months after melatonin treatment began. The extra cycle of seasonal changes was more pronounced in EM than in LM stags. In Exp. 2, stags (n = 30) were allocated to 6 treatment groups: 4 groups were treated with 3 implants per stag at monthly intervals for 6 months from 22 June (J), 4 August (A), 16 September (S) and 23 October (O), a further group of stags was treated in the same manner for 12 months from 22 June (Y), and the remaining group was untreated (C). Compared with control stags, testicular regression and antler casting was delayed in Groups J, A and Y. These events occurred at the same time as in control stags in Groups S and O. Subsequent reproductive development was advanced in Groups S and O and delayed in Groups J, A and Y. The results demonstrated that treatment with melatonin implants in November or December advanced reproductive development. However, when stags were treated with melatonin implants from June to August, reproductive development was delayed, indicating a change in response to melatonin treatment during the year. The change in response to melatonin treatment between late winter and early spring was interpreted as a resetting of an endogenous circannual rhythm caused by a photoperiodic cue responsible for initiating the final stages of reproductive regression.
Keywords: red deer; melatonin; reproduction; antlers
J. R. Webster, J. M. Suttie, B. A. Veenvliet, T. R. Manley, and R. P. Littlejohn
Summary. Rams were treated with melatonin implants in 2 experiments designed to examine the control of reproductive seasonality. In Exp. 1, rams (n = 12) were allocated to 3 treatment groups: 2 groups were treated with 2 melatonin implants per ram for 4 months from 11 November (N) and 9 December (D) and the remaining group was untreated (C). The seasonal increase in luteinizing hormone (LH) pulse frequency and testes size was advanced in Groups N and D. A second seasonal cycle in LH secretion and testes size occurred in Groups N and D after melatonin implants became exhausted. In Exp. 2, rams (n = 20) were allocated to 4 treatment groups: 10 rams were castrated on 6 October and 1 group of entire rams (EM) and one group of castrated rams (CM) were treated with 2 melatonin implants per ram each month from 3 November until 8 January. The other group of entire rams (EC) and castrated rams (CC) was untreated. An increase in LH pulse frequency occurred after castration. Melatonin treatment increased LH pulse frequency in entire rams and reduced LH pulse frequency in castrated rams. The results demonstrated that the advanced reproductive development as a result of treatment with melatonin implants was due to an effect of melatonin on the hypothalamic pulse generator to increase LH pulse frequency. The ability of melatonin to influence LH pulse frequency in entire and castrated rams indicated that an effect of melatonin on the hypothalamic pulse generator is independent of testicular steroids.
Keywords: melatonin; rams; luteinizing hormone; testes