The pattern of reproduction in the Libyan jird (Meriones libycus; Rodentia: Muridae) from central Saudi Arabia in the absence of rainfall

17 Jul 2019

The reproductive pattern of the Libyan jird (Meriones libycus Lichtenstein, 1823) from central Saudi Arabia was investigated in the absence of rainfall. In this study, body mass, morphometry of the reproductive tract, the histology of the reproductive organs, and the hormone concentrations of males and females were studied over 12 consecutive months in a wild population of the Libyan jird from central Saudi Arabia. Previous studies have found the breeding season of the Libyan jird from the Sahara desert of Algeria to occur during the wet months of spring. In the absence of rainfall, temperature and photoperiod were found to be important activators of reproductive activity. The cooler temperatures and shorter days of winter triggered the onset of ovulation in females and increased testes size and seminiferous tubule diameter in males. Only two pregnancies were found during the sampling period, which occurred during the cooler winter and early spring and coincided with a rise in plasma progesterone concentration in females. The Libyan jird was found to shift its breeding to the cooler months of winter in the absence of rainfall. This study strengthens the findings that changes in rainfall and temperature in dry deserts are critical cues for the onset of reproduction in small mammals.