Genetic diversity affects testicular morphology in free-ranging lions (Panthera leo) of the Serengeti Plains and Ngorongoro Crater

in Reproduction

Reduced genetic variability is known to adversely affect ejaculate quality in inbred lions (Panthera leo) physically isolated in the Ngorongoro Crater compared with outbred lions inhabiting the adjacent Serengeti Plains in East Africa. This study compared the histomorphology of testicular biopsies from these two lion populations. Ngorongoro Crater lions had fewer (P <0.05) seminiferous tubules with spermiogenesis and fewer (P <0.05) spermatids per seminiferous tubular cross-section than Serengeti Plains lions, although seminiferous tubular diameter did not differ (P > 0.05) between populations. Interstitial areas were greater (P <0.05) in Crater than in Plains lions, but no qualitative differences were evident, suggesting that proportionately less testicular area was occupied by seminiferous tubules in Crater lions. None of the lions in either population had evidence of testicular degeneration. Overall results suggest that inbred Crater lions have reduced spermiogenesis and less total seminiferous tubular area per testis. These data further support the premise that genetic homogeneity compromises reproductive traits in free-living, male African

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    Society for Reproduction and Fertility