Breeding benefits when love bites wombats on the butt

May 09, 2018

Monitoring wombats for behaviours such as pacing and rump biting could help conservation efforts by increasing the success of captive breeding.

University of Queensland researchers have found increased pacing by female southern hairy-nosed wombats is an indicator they are 'in season'.

And female wombats are more likely to bite the rumps of the males in pre-copulatory behaviour at the most fertile phase of their reproductive cycle.

Associate Professor Stephen Johnston said researchers were trying to better understand the southern hairy-nosed wombat as a breeding model for their critically endangered northern cousins.

"With only about 200 northern hairy-nosed wombats remaining, being able to breed these animals may one day ensure the survival of the species," he said.

"There has been no captive breeding of the northern hairy-nosed wombat, and even the southern species fails to breed regularly in captivity."

Dr Johnston said the size and aggressive temperament of wombats made them difficult to work with, so behavioural indicators were a significant step forward.

"We have developed a way to map the reproductive cycle of the female wombat by measuring hormone levels in their urine," Dr Johnston said.

"Through round-the-clock monitoring over multiple breeding cycles, we detected subtle behavioural changes associated with the fluctuations in this hormonal mapping.

"These behaviours could be used to identify when animals in captivity should be brought together for breeding, serving as cues for animal husbandry managers in zoos and wildlife facilities with southern hairy-nosed wombats."

The research team, including Dr Alyce Swinbourne, worked with Australian Animals Care and Education, from their Safe Haven base at Mr Larcom in Central Queensland.

Dr Johnston said that detection of the most appropriate timing for successful mating in the wombat was important not only for natural conception in wombats, but also for the next step in the research program, which involves the development of assisted reproductive techniques such as artificial insemination.

The research is published in Reproduction, Fertility and Development by CSIRO Publishing.
-end-
DOI 10.1071/RD17539

Media: Dr Tamara Kelley, t.keeley@uq.edu.au, +61 424 728 283; UQ Communications, communications@uq.edu.au, 3365 1120 or 0413 601 248.

University of Queensland

Related Breeding Articles from Brightsurf:

Novel haplotype-led approach to increase the precision of wheat breeding
Wheat researchers at the John Innes Centre are pioneering a new technique that promises to improve gene discovery for the globally important crop.

Climate-adapted plant breeding
Securing plant production is a global task. Using a combination of new molecular and statistical methods, a research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) was able to show that material from gene banks can be used to improve traits in the maize plant.

Shorebirds more likely to divorce after successful breeding
Research led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath found that a range of factors affected the fidelity and parenting behaviour of plovers, rather than being defined by the species.

Researchers help inform cassava breeding worldwide
Scientists in Cornell University's NextGen Cassava project have uncovered new details regarding cassava's genetic architecture that may help breeders more easily pinpoint traits for one of Africa's key crops.

Declining US plant breeding programs impacts food security
Decreasing access to funding, technology, and knowledge in U.S. plant breeding programs could negatively impact our future food security.

Gluten in wheat: What has changed during 120 years of breeding?
In recent years, the number of people affected by coeliac disease, wheat allergy or gluten or wheat sensitivity has risen sharply.

Decline in plant breeding programs could impact food security
A team of scientists led by Kate Evans, a Washington State University horticulture professor who leads WSU's pome fruit (apples and pears) breeding program, found that public plant breeding programs are seeing decreases in funding and personnel.

Research could save years of breeding for new Miscanthus hybrids
As climate change becomes increasingly difficult to ignore, scientists are working to diversify and improve alternatives to fossil-fuel-based energy.

Breeding new rice varieties will help farmers in Asia
New research shows enormous potential for developing improved short-duration rice varieties.

New software supports decision-making for breeding
Researchers at the University of Göttingen have developed an innovative software program for the simulation of breeding programmes.

Read More: Breeding News and Breeding Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.