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Gonad development and evidence of protogyny in the red-throat emperor on the Great Barrier Reef

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The gonad development in the red-throat emperor Lethrinus miniatus is described and the first detailed evidence for protogyny in this species provided. The identification of transitional individuals, bimodal sex-specific size-frequency distributions and female biased sex ratios suggest that L. miniatus is most likely a protogynous hermaphrodite. Transitional L. miniatus gonads were characterized by the concurrent degeneration of all oocytes and the proliferation of spermatocysts near the edge of the lamellae, an increase in blood vessels along strands of stromal tissue within the lamellae and the formation of multiple sperm sinuses. The sites of oocyte degeneration and proliferation of spermatocysts were spatially segregated. An increase in blood vessels along strands of stromal tissue within the lamellae of transitional phase gonads is likely to assist in the breakdown of oocytes and the proliferation of spermatocysts. Most mature resting females containing spermatocysts occurred within the transitional size-frequency distribution, suggesting that the presence of spermatocysts in these females may be an early sign of sex change. Oocytes within female gonads were interrupted by filamentous strands of stromal tissue within the lamellae. The testis contained a remanent ovarian lumen but no residual oocytes. Three characteristics of transitional L. miniatus gonads were found to be unusual and described for few other species of coral reef fishes. These included the absence of oocytes within testes, increased numbers of blood vessels, and the presence of strands of stromal tissue within the lamellae.
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Keywords: Lethrinus miniatus; fish reproduction; gonad development; protogyny; stromal tissue

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CRC Reef Research Centre-Fishing and Fisheries Project, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia and

Publication date: 2003-02-01

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