Reproductive cycle and fecundity of the bonnethead Sphyrna tiburo L. from the northwest Atlantic Ocean

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The present study examined temporal changes in plasma sex hormone concentrations and the morphology and histology of reproductive organs in mature northwest Atlantic (NWA) bonnetheads Sphyrna tiburo L. to characterize reproductive cycle, breeding periodicity and fertility in this still poorly studied population. Progressive increases in testis width, epididymis head width, plasma testosterone (T) concentrations, and occurrence of mature spermatozoa were observed in male S. tiburo from June to September, demonstrating that spermatogenesis occurs during the summer. Nonetheless, increases in maximum follicle diameter, oviducal gland width, plasma 17β-estradiol and T concentrations, and occurrence of vitellogenic follicles were not observed in mature females until between October and April, demonstrating non-synchronous patterns of gametogenesis in males and females. Fresh copulatory wounds were observed in females collected during late September along with histological evidence for sperm presence in the oviducal gland between September and April, confirming a 6- to 7 month period of female sperm storage. Ovulation occurred between mid-April and early May in concert with increases in female plasma progesterone concentrations. Gestation occurred during a 4.5- to 5 month period between May and early September, and 97% of mature females collected during this period were gravid, indicating a highly synchronized, annual reproductive periodicity. Brood size was significantly correlated with maternal size and ranged from 1 to 13 pups with a mean ± S.D. of 8.1 ± 2.2, which was significantly lower than reported in Gulf of Mexico (GOM) populations. The occurrence of non-fertile offspring was observed in 17% of broods with a range of 1–7 non-fertile eggs present in individual females. Thus, as previously reported in GOM S. tiburo, this unusual form of infertility also appears to be prevalent in the NWA population and requires further study. This study has demonstrated meaningful differences in reproductive biology of these populations, emphasizing the need for region-specific approaches for population management.

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Journal of Fish Biology





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