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Seasonal variation in reproductive physiological status in the Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica) and its relationship with sperm freezability

DOI: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2011.07.001
  • Accessory Sex Glands
  • Breeding Season
  • Cryopreservation
  • Horn Growth
  • Semen Quality
  • Testosterone


Abstract The present work examines the relationship between seasonal changes in testicular function, accessory gland size, and horn growth in Iberian ibexes, as well as the relationship between these changes and the resistance of ibex spermatozoa to freezing-thawing. The size of the bulbourethral glands and seminal vesicles showed pronounced monthly variation (P < 0.001), which was correlated positively with the plasma testosterone concentration (P < 0.001) and scrotal circumference (P < 0.001). The size of the accessory sex glands peaked during the autumn. Overall, semen quality was markedly improved during autumn and winter. When horn growth was at a minimum during autumn and winter, semen quality and accessory gland size were all increased compared to in spring and summer. However, increased plasma testosterone levels in the autumn were strongly associated with reduced sperm freezability; thus, the cryosurvival of spermatozoa collected during the autumn was poorer than at other times of the year. In winter, however, when the plasma testosterone concentration fell to baseline, the negative effects of cryopreservation on the percentage of motile spermatozoa and on the integrity of the plasma membrane of frozen-thawed sperm cells were significantly less intense (P < 0.05). These findings show a clear relationship between the functional and morphological status of the different parts of the reproductive tract that optimises reproductive function during the breeding season in the ibex male. They also show that winter is the most suitable season for the collection and cryopreservation of ibex spermatozoa.

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