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AR Pickard, T Abaigar, DI Green, WV Holt and M Cano

The oestrous cycles of seven captive Mohor Gazelles (Gazella dama mhorr) were investigated. Hormone profiles obtained from faecal samples collected each day from cyclic females indicated that the mean duration of the oestrous cycle was 18.62 +/- 0.26 days (range 16-22 days; n = 37 oestrous cycles). No inter-individual differences in the concentration of faecal progestagen metabolites excreted were observed, but mean faecal oestrogen excretion during both the luteal and inter-luteal phases of the oestrous cycle varied among females (P < 0.001 and P = 0.070, respectively). Oestrous cycles were synchronized using controlled internal drug release (CIDR) devices, before natural mating with an intact male. Concentrations of faecal progestagen metabolites remained approximately constant for the first 10 weeks of gestation (mean +/- SEM = 4048 +/- 407 ng g(-1) faeces), before increasing to a mean of 23 556 +/- 1176 ng g(-1) faeces. Two of seven female gazelles conceived immediately after removal of the CIDR device, a similar proportion to that conceived at the postpartum oestrus under natural conditions. Life history data for these individuals indicated that the mean time to conception in female gazelles is positively correlated with peak values in the ratio of excreted oestrogen : progestagen during the inter-luteal period of their oestrous cycles (R(2) = 0.58; P < 0.05). This finding indicates that interactions between steroid production and metabolism may influence the likelihood of conception occurring in this species.

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J. Cassinello, T. Abaigar, M. Gomendio and E. R. S. Roldan

As part of a captive breeding programme for three species of endangered gazelles (Gazella dama mhorr, G. dorcas neglecta and G. cuvieri) the semen parameters for each species were characterized. The volume of ejaculated semen varied widely within species (G. dama: 565–5569 μl; G. dorcas: 0–1454 μl; G. cuvieri: 50–1411 μl), as did sperm concentration (G. dama: 14–1629 × 106 ml−1; G. dorcas: 197–2836 × 106 ml−1; G. cuvieri: 228–927 × 106 ml−1). Sperm motility and viability were high in the three species. G. dama had a significantly lower proportion of normal spermatozoa, with a significantly higher proportion having abnormal heads and midpieces and more spermatozoa with cytoplasmic droplets. In addition, G. dama tended to have a lower proportion of spermatozoa with normal acrosomes. Sperm heads in G. dama and G. cuvieri were pear-shaped, whereas they were oval in G. dorcas. Spermatozoa from G. cuvieri were the longest. These data were also analysed in the context of three hypotheses that could explain inter-species differences in semen characteristics. Differences in testes size were due largely to differences in body size between species. However, no semen characteristic could be explained by allometric relationships. The three gazelle species differed in the intensity of sperm competition (as measured by relative testes mass), a factor that could explain differences in the proportion of normal spermatozoa. Finally, although the three species have reached different levels of inbreeding, this factor did not explain differences in semen characteristics in the population.

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T Abaigar, M Cano, AR Pickard and WV Holt

Subjective and objective semen assessments were performed on 18 male Mohor gazelles (Gazella dama mhorr). Sperm motility assessments combined with sperm plasma membrane and acrosomal integrity evaluations were undertaken as part of a captive breeding programme. The primary objective was to test methodology for short-term preservation of gazelle semen for artificial insemination (storage in N-[Tris(hydroxymethyl)methyl]-2-aminoethanesulphonic acid-Tris diluent (TEST) for up to 96 h at 17 degrees C). However, the secondary objective was to investigate phenotypic and genotypic influences on semen quality within this small population, which was established in 1971 with only 12 genetic founders. Sperm motility was measured by computer-assisted semen assessment and the data were analysed using a pattern analysis technique to detect and quantify naturally occurring sperm subpopulations within the semen samples. Four sperm subpopulations distinguishable by their motion characteristics were detected. The relative frequencies of two subpopulations (population 2: highly motile, non-linear; and population 4: poorly motile, non-linear) in fresh semen were correlated with the maximum voltage used during electroejaculation. The frequency of subpopulation 2 was negatively correlated with maximum voltage (r = -0.875, P < 0.0001) and the frequency of subpopulation 4 was positively correlated (r = 0.727, P < 0.005). The frequencies of all subpopulations varied significantly among the animals sampled (chi-squared = 2577.6, degrees of freedom = 54, P < 0.0001) and subpopulation 4 was also correlated with body weight (r = -0.59, P < 0.005). Semen stored at 17 degrees C retained motility, plasma membrane and acrosomal integrity for 48 h, but these measures decreased thereafter. The frequency of a sperm subpopulation showing uncoordinated but active motility increased significantly over the first 48 h and then decreased.