Identifying the reproductive state of female Julia Creek dunnarts (Sminthopsis douglasi) by behavioural observations

Masters Thesis


Bjursell, Alice. 2006. Identifying the reproductive state of female Julia Creek dunnarts (Sminthopsis douglasi) by behavioural observations. Masters Thesis Master of Science. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

Identifying the reproductive state of female Julia Creek dunnarts (Sminthopsis douglasi) by behavioural observations

TypeMasters Thesis
Authors
AuthorBjursell, Alice
SupervisorWithers, Kerry
Senior, Graeme
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameMaster of Science
Number of Pages91
Year2006
Abstract

[Abstract]:

The Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi) is an endangered carnivorous marsupial. A recovery plan for the species has been initiated by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, which includes captive breeding.
An important factor in breeding S. douglasi is the identification of oestrus. The current method to identify oestrus consists of examining urine samples
for presence of cornified cells. To collect urine, the animals have to be removed from their cages and restrained. This method is stressful for the
animals, as well as time consuming. The aim of this study was to identify specific behaviour of S. douglasi associated with oestrus, which could be readily observed without the need for handling the animal. This would
provide a non-invasive way of identifying oestrus, which would facilitate breeding the species in captivity and planning conservation programs.

Behaviour of S. douglasi was observed throughout the night by video recording. The most striking result was the increase in activity of the female when she was in oestrus compared to non-oestrus. The most informative
behaviour to observe was entry by the female into the nest box and the frequency with which she entered the area closest to the wall of the enclosure. A discriminant function analysis generated an equation with an
over-all predictive power (OPP, the probability of making an accurate identification of reproductive state) of 89%. This result was obtained by watching two random five-minute periods of activity. The equation was tested and verified with new individuals and attained a similar level of OPP. However, the equation was less accurate when the observed female’s social context was changed from being housed adjacent to a male, to being accompanied by another female or housed singularly. Consistent with the
sensitivity of activity levels as an indicator, the distance run in an exercise wheel was also a good predictor of oestrous state. Females ran a significantly longer distance in their exercise wheel when in oestrus
compared to non-oestrus (p<0.001).

KeywordsJulia Creek dunnart; dunnarts; reproduction; reproductive state
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020300305. Animal reproduction and breeding
410407. Wildlife and habitat management
Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Biological and Physical Sciences
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Related outputs

Identifying reproductive state of the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi by behavioural observations
Bjursell, A., Withers, K., Senior, G., Lundie-Jenkins, G. and Kennerley, P.. 2005. "Identifying reproductive state of the Julia Creek dunnart Sminthopsis douglasi by behavioural observations." Cree, Alison (ed.) 22nd Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry (ANZSCPB 2005). Dunedin, New Zealand 09 - 11 Dec 2005 New Zealand.
Application of machine vision technology to identification of oestrous in the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi)
Bjursell, A., Dunn, M., Withers, K., Senior, G., Lundie-Jenkins, G. and Billingsley, J.. 2005. "Application of machine vision technology to identification of oestrous in the Julia Creek dunnart (Sminthopsis douglasi)." Cree, Alison (ed.) 22nd Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry (ANZSCPB 2005). Dunedin, New Zealand 09 - 11 Dec 2005 New Zealand.