The royal python (Python regius) is commonly bred in captivity. To have a successful breeding season, accurate monitoring of the reproductive activity is necessary. The use of noninvasive monitoring methods in exotics is important in order to minimize stress. For this purpose ultrasound has been anecdotally used to monitor royal python reproductive activity. However, there is limited information regarding the reproductive cycle of this species. The aim of the present study is to monitor the female reproductive cycle of the royal python using ultrasonography and gonadal steroid metabolite measurements in the faeces. The reproductive activity of one hundred twenty-nine adult female P. regius was examined during two consecutive years. We performed brief scans on non-anaesthetized snakes using a portable ultrasound system and a 10±12 MHz linear array transducer (MyLab(tm) 30 Gold, Esaote). Ultrasound features, dimension and echogenicity of the reproductive structures were determined. During the second reproductive cycle, the hormonal profiles of 30 animals were also evaluated, with a monthly collection of faecal samples. These samples were classified according to reproductive stage, as identified by ultrasonographic examination, and the mean faecal progesterone and 17â-estradiol levels were calculated using the results from an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Progesterone levels increased during the reproductive cycle. Estradiol levels showed greater variability, although they appeared to increase before coupling when compared to the levels between coupling and egg laying. The present study suggests that it is possible to identify different phases in the female royal python reproductive cycle: Anovulatory phase, transition, folliculogenesis and embryogenesis. Ultrasound is also useful for identifying follicular regression or slugs. Gonadal steroid metabolite measurements from the faeces could help integrate reproductive information. The use of ultrasonography in addition to the steroid metabolite measurement in the faeces gives an accurate picture of ovarian activity in captive adult female royal pythons.
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