Variation in reproduction of a temperate deer, the southern pudu (Pudu puda)
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Pudu (Pudu puda), occurring in the southern cone of Latin America, has been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), yet little is known about this animal in the wild, with most knowledge on the breeding behaviour coming from captive animals. For this second-smallest deer in the world, delayed implantation has been suggested to explain the two peaks in the annual cycle of male sexual hormones on the basis of the accepted tenet that the breeding period occurs only once a year, between March and June. However, in the present study, birth dates from fawns born at the Los Canelos semi-captive breeding centre in Chile and male courting behaviour revealed the possibility of two rutting periods: autumn and spring. To our knowledge, this is the first time that late-fall births (May through early June for 17% of fawns in the study population) have been recorded for the southern pudu; two of these four births were conceived by females in the wild. From zoo and captive-animal birth records (n = 97), only three fawns were born in the fall. For all births combined (n = 121), 77% occurred in spring. The roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and Pere David deer (Elaphurus davidianus) have been considered the only two temperate cervids in which sexual activity is initiated by increasing daylength and which breed in early summer. Yet, the present results indicate a similar response from the southern pudu when under a wild or semi-captive environment, with breeding taking place in spring. These results suggest that this species may either have two reproductive periods per year or retains the capacity to be a breeder for a much more extended period of time than documented by earlier studies. Pudu, like other temperate deer, is responsive to photoperiod for timing its breeding period, but may further optimise its production of offspring by also responding to other environmental cues such as seasonal variation in food supply when climatic conditions are favourable.
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