Assessing female reproductive status of spectral tarsier (Tarsius tarsier) using fecal steroid hormone metabolite analysis

Nanik Hidayatik, Muhammad Agil, Michael Heistermann, Entang Iskandar, Tuty L. Yusuf, Dondin Sajuthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The wild population of spectral tarsier is declining and attempts to breed the species in captivity have been of limited success. One possible reason for this is that information on the reproductive biology of Tarsius tarsier is extremely limited and data on the species reproductive physiology are completely lacking. We validated fecal estrogen (E-total) and progesterone metabolite (5-P-3OH) measurements for monitoring female ovarian activity and pregnancy. We used this approach to provide the first data on cycle and pregnancy length based on endocrine information in this species. We collected regular fecal samples in combination with observations on socio-sexual behaviors for a maximum of 15 months from three females maintained at Primate Research Center of Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia. Hormonal profiles indicated that behavioral estrus was associated with marked elevations in fecal E-total concentrations followed by increases in 5-P-3OH levels indicating luteal function. Pregnancy was characterized by low levels of E-total and 5-P-3OH during the first month and markedly rising concentrations thereafter. An ovarian cycle length of 21.7 ± 5.7 days was found. Gestation length was 128d (live infant), 131d (stillbirth), and 164d (death of mother and infant due to dystocia). Despite the small sample size, the study demonstrates the overall validity of fecal sex hormone metabolite measurements for reproductive monitoring in female T. tarsier, as such, the methods described here may ultimately help to improve the breeding management of the species in captivity. They may also offer new opportunities for investigating basic questions of tarsier reproductive biology in the wild by using fecal hormone metabolite analysis to diagnose pregnant animals and determine reproductive rates in relation to ecological and other factors influencing tarsier reproduction. Thus, non-invasive assessment of female reproductive condition as described here may ultimately contribute to facilitate in and ex situ conservation efforts of this endangered primate species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22917
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Tarsius tarsier
  • estrogen
  • fecal hormone metabolites
  • ovarian cycle
  • pregnancy
  • progestogen


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