Reproductive functional anatomy and oestrous cycle pattern of the female brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus, Gray 1842) from Gabon

P. Mayor, M. López-Béjar, F. Jori, M. Fenech, F. López-Gatius

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In the present study, we examined certain features of the functional anatomy of the female genital tract of the wild brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus) to obtain data on the reproductive biology of this African forest rodent. Two consecutive experiments were performed. The aim of the first was to establish macroscopic and microscopic features of the genital organs, and to explore correlations between predominant ovarian structures and vaginal contents in 20 wild, mature females. In the second experiment, we inspected the external genitalia and vaginal smears of a further 10 females in captivity on a daily basis for 90 days. The uterus of the brush-tailed porcupine is bicornuate and composed of two separated uterine horns, a uterine body and cervix. The genital tract does not present a vaginal vestibule. Thus, there is no portion common to genital and urinary tracts. Females in the follicular phase of the oestrous cycle showed increased cornification of the vaginal epithelium and a high density of eosinophilic cells in vaginal smears. The vulva and vaginal opening were open, reddish and tumefacted. In luteal phase or in pregnancy, epithelial cornification and eosinophilic features were notably reduced and the vagina presented a pale, non-tumefacted vulva and a vaginal closure membrane. Females in captivity showed spontaneous cycles, a polyoestrous reproduction pattern and, based on features of the external genitalia and vaginal smears, their oestrous cycle length was 27.1 ± 6.4 days (n = 12). © 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-259
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2003


  • Atherurus africanus
  • Brush-tailed porcupine
  • Genital tract
  • Hystricognath rodents
  • Oestrous cycle


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