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Behavioural and chemical confirmation of the preovulatory pheromone, (Z)-7-dodecenyl acetate, in wild Asian elephants: its relationship to musth

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[Mammalian breeding strategies vary depending on particular social contexts and sensory systems emphasized in various species. Among sexually dimorphic non-territorial Asian elephants, Elephas maximus, a multiplex olfactory chemical signaling system has been implicated in ensuring effective reproduction. This study explores how, using chemosensory mechanisms, widely roaming, wild male elephants locate periovulatory females in matriarchal-led female family units and precisely assess their ovulatory status. In this species, the dual obstacles of separately living sexes and infrequent oestrus are overcome by lengthy female cycles. During an extended preovulatory period captive females release increasing concentrations of the urinary pheromone (Z)-7-dodecenyl acetate, timed to reach a maximum just before ovulation. The current field studies combined chemical identification and quantification of female urinary (Z)-7-dodecenyl acetate with behavioural observations, monitoring the frequencies of chemosensory responses and premating behaviours by various categories of males. The results suggest the temporal extension of the preovulatory period effectively provides a synchrony between sexes for successful reproduction. Male elephants undergo a two-decade-long maturation process that involves physical, sexual, social, and physiological maturation. Males older than 30 years are generally large, sexually active, socially adept and capable of sustaining long periods of musth, during which they release secretions distinctive of adult musth. These older adult males in musth demonstrated significantly more chemosensory responses and premating behaviours than their younger or nonmusth counterparts; they apparently are more skilled at detecting the precise ovulatory status of females. Male–male interactions are affected by size, age, and musth; the winners gain greater access to females, as indicated by the high incidence of mate guarding. The Asian elephant shares some breeding tactics common to other mammals including some primates (e.g. orangutans) and whales, while the musth parameter adds a unique feature. Fusion–fission events are influenced by elephant reproductive strategies, as roving males join female groups while tracking preovulatory pheromone concentrations., Mammalian breeding strategies vary depending on particular social contexts and sensory systems emphasized in various species. Among sexually dimorphic non-territorial Asian elephants, Elephas maximus, a multiplex olfactory chemical signaling system has been implicated in ensuring effective reproduction. This study explores how, using chemosensory mechanisms, widely roaming, wild male elephants locate periovulatory females in matriarchal-led female family units and precisely assess their ovulatory status. In this species, the dual obstacles of separately living sexes and infrequent oestrus are overcome by lengthy female cycles. During an extended preovulatory period captive females release increasing concentrations of the urinary pheromone (Z)-7-dodecenyl acetate, timed to reach a maximum just before ovulation. The current field studies combined chemical identification and quantification of female urinary (Z)-7-dodecenyl acetate with behavioural observations, monitoring the frequencies of chemosensory responses and premating behaviours by various categories of males. The results suggest the temporal extension of the preovulatory period effectively provides a synchrony between sexes for successful reproduction. Male elephants undergo a two-decade-long maturation process that involves physical, sexual, social, and physiological maturation. Males older than 30 years are generally large, sexually active, socially adept and capable of sustaining long periods of musth, during which they release secretions distinctive of adult musth. These older adult males in musth demonstrated significantly more chemosensory responses and premating behaviours than their younger or nonmusth counterparts; they apparently are more skilled at detecting the precise ovulatory status of females. Male–male interactions are affected by size, age, and musth; the winners gain greater access to females, as indicated by the high incidence of mate guarding. The Asian elephant shares some breeding tactics common to other mammals including some primates (e.g. orangutans) and whales, while the musth parameter adds a unique feature. Fusion–fission events are influenced by elephant reproductive strategies, as roving males join female groups while tracking preovulatory pheromone concentrations.]

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/content/journals/10.1163/1568539053778300
2005-03-01
2015-05-06

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