Influences of food quality and quantity on the male reproductive organs of a seasonally breeding rodent, the pouched mouse (Saccostomus campestris), from a seasonal but unpredictable environment
Reproduction in the pouched mouse (Saccostomus campestris) is inhibited in winter in the field and this seasonality is not controlled by photoperiod alone. The present study examines the hypothesis that reproduction in the pouched mouse is opportunistic (sensu Bronson 1989) and that the winter inhibition of reproduction is controlled by a reduction in either food quantity or quality. Food restriction (70 % of normal daily food intake) for six weeks, under short day conditions, was associated with a significant decrease in body fat index and mass of the accessory glands, testes and epididymides, while a high-fibre diet resulted in a significant reduction in fat index and masses of both the accessory glands and epididymides. A lowfibre/ low-protein diet had no significant effect on either fat index or masses of the reproductive organs. Although the three experimental diets resulted in assimilation of significantly less energy than the controls, they did not inhibit spermatogenesis.We conclude that reproduction in the pouched mouse in the Eastern Cape Province is probably opportunistic and that the winter inhibition of reproduction may be controlled by a reduction in available energy which results from a combination of the lower ambient temperatures of winter and reduced food quantity and/or quality.
Key words: reproduction, energetics, Africa, Mammalia.