Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Wildland Resources


Eric M Gese


Wild Canis species possess a unique suite of reproductive traits including social monogamy, copulatory lock/tie, and biparental care. Females are seasonally monestrous and experience an obligatory pseudopregnancy after spontaneous ovulation. While these characteristics have been ascribed to coyotes, an integrated profile of behavior and physiology has not yet been described. In this study, temporal correlations between steroid hormone levels and socio-sexual mating behaviors were documented, as were changes in vaginal epithelium. Pseudopregnancy was compared to pregnancy by contrasting hormone (progesterone, estradiol, prolactin and relaxin) profiles of unmated females to patterns obtained in alternate years when they bred. Meanwhile, social interactions between pseudopregnant females and their mates appeared similar to pregnant coyotes, suggesting a proximate role of pseudopregnancy in pair-bond enforcement. Finally, out-of-season stimulation of ovarian hormones and estrous behaviors suggested that reproductive seasonality of the coyote may possess some degree of plasticity, providing an adaptive response mechanism to environmental change.