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Semen-induced luteal phase and identification of a LH surge in the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) 

S D Johnston, P O'Callaghan,1, K Nilsson,1 G Tzipori1 and J D Curlewis2

School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland, 4072, 1Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Jesmond Road, Fig Tree Pocket, 4069 and 2School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, 4072, Australia

ABSTRACT

The koala ovulates in response to mating. The purpose of this study was to document the LH surge induced by copulation and to investigate the potential roles of mechanical stimulation of the urogenital sinus and deposition of semen in induction of the luteal phase. In experiment 1, serial blood samples from four koalas that underwent normal mating showed elevated concentrations of LH approximately 24-32 h post-coitus. There was no corresponding elevation in LH in koalas (n = 4) that were exposed to the presence of a male but received no physical contact. In experiment 2, koalas on day 2 of oestrus were exposed to one of the following treatments (n = 9 per group): artificial insemination with 1 ml 0.9% sterile saline (control group), insemination with 1 ml koala semen, stimulation of the urogenital sinus with a purposebuilt glass rod (designed to mimic the action of the penis during natural mating) and urogenital stimulation with the glass rod followed by insemination of 1 ml koala semen. Confirmation of a luteal phase was based on evidence of a prolonged return to oestrus, parturition and/or elevated progesterone concentrations. Insemination of saline (0/9) and urogenital stimulation (0/9) failed to induce a luteal phase. Insemination of semen without glass rod stimulation resulted in a luteal phase in 4/9 koalas, three of which gave birth. Insemination of semen in combination with urogenital stimulation produced a luteal phase in 7/9 koalas, four of which gave birth. Semen had a significant effect on induction of the koala luteal phase (P < 0.001) but glass rod stimulation had no such effect (P= 0.335). It was concluded that semen must be involved in the induction of a luteal phase in the koala. The results presented in this study will serve to improve optimal timing and induction of ovulation for artificial insemination in the koala.

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