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Reproductive Condition and Behavior in Relation to Plasma Levels of Gonadal Steroids in the Spiny Damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 11:44 authored by Pankhurst, NW, Pollyanna Hilder, Pankhurst, PM
Gonadal condition and plasma levels of gonadal steroids were measured in relation to behavior in the biparental brood-protecting spiny damselfish Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Fish were captured by SCUBA divers from natural populations on Australia's Great Barrier Reef and immediately bled underwater, following diver or video observation of precapture behaviour. In winter (July), most fish were nonterritorial, with a low proportion of mature males, or vitellogenic females present. In spring (November), most fish were territorial with broods of young at varying stages of maturity, and all stages of gonadal development were represented. Territorial males were larger than nonterritorial fish, but territorial fish that had large (older) young (the end of the brooding phase) had lower condition factors than fish at other stages. Males of all gonad stages had a high proportion of spermatozoa in the testis, but this was higher in November than in July. Ovaries of females commonly had several classes of developing follicles present, although fish that were brooding large young had regressed ovaries with a high incidence of atresia. Plasma levels of testosterone (T) and 11- ketotestosterone were elevated in males of advanced gonadal maturity, and also in relation to recent or imminent spawning behaviour, but there were no changes in plasma 17,20β-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (17,20βP), which was near assay detection limits at all times. Females had elevated T and 17β- estradiol (E 2) in association with vitellogenesis and elevated T in relation to spawning activity in some fish, but as in males, 17,20βP levels were low and unchanging. Territorial females without young had lower cortisol levels than nonterritorial fish, or females protecting young. The results confirm the importance of elevated androgens to spawning activity in territorial male fish, but not females where endocrine activity is more closely related to stage of ovarian development. Extended brooding appears to inhibit vitellogenesis, perhaps via a stress-related mechanism.


Publication title

General and Comparative Endocrinology








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Academic Press

Place of publication

San Diego, California, USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Fisheries - wild caught not elsewhere classified

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