A bizarre male bark is required to jump-start a female cheetah’s reproductive system. You could call it ovulation on demand, and it means that breeding the rare big cats in captivity may finally be possible – according to experts.
Unlike other big cat species, female cheetahs ovulate very rarely and it appears to happen at unusual times. Researchers and scientists have always tried to figure out why they lacked any sort of regular reproductive cycle. However, scientists believe they have now cracked the case: male cheetahs turn females on and that is how it is literally. They have a very specific bark that triggers the female reproductive system to start releasing eggs – without this bark it just does not happen.
This discovery will greatly help their efforts of breeding the rare cats, whose population has been dwindling steadily. The discovery happened by accident by experts looking into cheetah vocalizations. They noticed a particular sort of stutter bark was always made by males before breeding took place, and because unique calls to a single-gender do happen to often be linked to reproduction in the animal kingdom they decided to take a closer look.
And luckily they did because after a series of experiments that measured hormone levels they confirmed that estrogen and progesterone levels in female cheetahs went up massively on hearing this stutter bark. This is an amazing find for breeding cheetahs, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates there are only 7,500 left worldwide.
Though using sound to jump-start reproduction is quite common among birds, it is unheard of for mammals. Male red deer are known to roar which also influences female deer’s ovulation, but to use a signal to turn on a reproductive cycle in a female had never been observed before.