Testosterone and dihydrotestosterone concentrations in elephant serum and temporal gland secretions.

L. E. Rasmussen, I. O. Buss, D. L. Hess, M. J. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Serum and temporal gland secretions (TGS) were obtained from mature wild African (Loxodonta africana) and captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). Samples were obtained from five cows and eight bulls culled for management purposes in Kruger National Park, South Africa, and from four females and two males residing at the Washington Park Zoo, Portland, Oregon. Our purpose was to describe the levels of the androgens, testosterone (T), and dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and to correlate these observations with sex, species and behavioral status. Male-female differences in serum T were pronounced in the Asian species, whereas male and female concentrations overlapped in the African elephant serum. Serum T concentrations in African females were greater than in Asian females. Serum DHT reflected T levels, except that the striking elevation of testosterone in Asian bulls during musth was not paralleled by equal increases in DHT levels. A species difference observed among males was higher serum T levels in nonmusth Asian bulls (1.84-5.35 ng/ml) compared to the levels in African bulls (0.38-0.68 ng/ml), except for one dominant African bull (6.64 ng/ml). This single African value was still considerably lower than the serum T values of the Asian males during musth. These musth values were the highest serum androgen concentrations: T was between 19 and 40 ng/ml (average 26.10 ng/ml). The TSG values of T and DHT were much higher than serum levels except in the Asian female. T/DHT ratios in TGS were more similar than in serum. One dominant African bull had a T TGS value of 78 ng/ml, which was much higher than the rest of the African males or females, but considerably lower than as Asian bull in musth (547 ng/ml). It seems apparent that a change in androgen status as reflected in serum and TGS levels of T and DHT precedes or is concomitant with overt alteration in behavior in the Asian male. The temporal gland appears to actively concentrate androgens in both African males and females, but in the Asian male the gland secretes only during musth when the greatest concentration of both T and DHT were observed. The apparent difference in the degree of temporal gland secretory activity between the two species suggests a more specific communicative function within the Asian male.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-362
Number of pages11
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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