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9 - The value and significance of vaginal cytology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2009

Barbara S. Durrant
Conservation and Research for Endangered Species
Mary Ann Olson
Conservation and Research for Endangered Species
Autumn Anderson
Conservation and Research for Endangered Species
Fernando Gual-Sil
Zoológico de Chapultepec
Desheng Li
China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
Yan Huang
China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda
David E. Wildt
Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Washington DC
Anju Zhang
Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
Hemin Zhang
Wildlife Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas
Donald L. Janssen
Zoological Society of San Diego
Susie Ellis
Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
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The giant panda is seasonally monoestrus, experiencing a single oestrus with spontaneous ovulation in the spring (Schaller et al., 1985). Although natural breeding produces the majority of cubs in captivity (Xie & Gipps, 2001), the number of sexually competent breeding males is insufficient to create or maintain a genetically diverse population (Hu, 1990; Xie & Gipps, 2001). Inclusion of males that are behaviourally incapable of mating, but that are genetically valuable, is possible through artificial insemination (AI) (see Chapter 20). Accurate monitoring of the oestrous cycle to pinpoint the time of ovulation is critical for timed matings and, especially, AI success.

The vaginal epithelium of many mammalian species is responsive to changes in circulating oestrogen concentrations. The value of vaginal cytology in monitoring the oestrous cycle of rodents (Zylicz et al., 1967; Parakkal, 1974) and domestic carnivores (Shutte, 1967; Mills et al., 1979) is widely recognised. In routine practice, evaluating vaginal cytology in these taxa involves quantifying proportions of mature exfoliated epithelial cells, also known as superficial, cornified or keratinised cells. Increasing proportions of mature cells are correlated with the pre-oestrual rise in oestrogen as well as oestrous behaviours.

Despite the logistical difficulty of obtaining vaginal cells from most wildlife species, the oestrous cycles of several small carnivores (raccoon dog: Valtonen et al., 1977; river otter: Stenson, 1988; tayra: Poglayen-Neuwall et al., 1989; multiple ferret species: Mead et al., 1990; Williams et al., 1992; mink: Klotchkov et al., 1998; fox: Boue et al.

Giant Pandas
Biology, Veterinary Medicine and Management
, pp. 231 - 244
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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