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Cool sex? Hibernation and reproduction overlap in the Echidna

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posted on 2023-05-26, 11:03 authored by Morrow, GE, Nicol, SC
During hibernation there is a slowing of all metabolic processes, and thus it is normally considered to be incompatible with reproduction. In Tasmania the egg-laying mammal, the echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) hibernates for several months before mating in mid-winter, and in previous studies we observed males with females that were still hibernating. We monitored the reproductive activity of radio-tracked echidnas by swabbing the reproductive tract for sperm while external temperature loggers provided information on the timing of hibernation. Additional information was provided by camera traps and ultrasound imaging. More than a third of the females found in mating groups were torpid, and the majority of these had mated. Some females re-entered deep torpor for extended periods after mating. Ultrasound examination showed a developing egg in the uterus of a female that had repeatedly re-entered torpor. The presence of fresh sperm in cloacal swabs taken from this female on three occasions after her presumed date of fertilization indicated she mated several times after being fertilized. The mating of males with torpid females is the result of extreme competition between promiscuous males, while re-entry into hibernation by pregnant females could improve the possibility of mating with a better quality male.

History

Publication title

PLOS One

Volume

4

Article number

6

Number

6

ISSN

1932-6203

Publication status

  • Published

Rights statement

Copyright: Copyright 2009 Morrow, Nicol. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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  • Open

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