Subordinate female marmoset monkeys remain anovulatory and have low plasma concentrations of luteinizing hormone (LH) when maintained with their dominant females. Olfactory cues from the dominant female have been implicated in maintaining this reproductive suppression. Subordinate females that received either ablation of the vomeronasal organ (an accessory olfactory organ; n = 3), ablation of the main olfactory epithelium (n = 4), or both lesions (n = 5) did not ovulate in the following 7 weeks while housed with their dominant female. Plasma LH concentrations following either or both lesions were similar to pre-lesion concentrations. Olfactory lesions (verified by histological and behavioural trials) did not impair reproductive activity, as olfactory-lesioned dominant females underwent ovarian cycles of similar duration to intact dominant females. Lesioned subordinate females (n = 6), maintained in visual-only contact with their dominant female and group ovulated 29.1 ± 9.3 days (mean ± sem) after physical separation from their dominant females; this first onset of ovulation was significantly delayed (P < 0.05) compared with intact subordinate females completely isolated from their dominant females and group (10.8 ± 1.3 days, n = 8). Behavioural and visual cues together with olfaction all appear to play important roles in maintaining the suppression of ovulation in subordinate female marmoset monkeys.
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