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Reproductive biology of female big‐bellied seahorses

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In this study, ovarian morphology, reproductive condition and sex steroid levels were investigated in the big‐bellied seahorse Hippocampus abdominalis, collected by snorkel and SCUBA diving in Wellington Harbour, New Zealand. Within the ovary, oocytes were contained between an outer muscular wall and an inner layer of luminal epithelium. Two germinal ridges ran along the entire length of the ovary. In cross‐section, oocytes were arranged in sequential order of development beginning at the germinal ridges and ending at the mature edge. Ovarian lamellae were absent. Vitellogenic and advanced cortical alveoli oocytes were elongated in shape, whereas maturing oocytes were distinctively pear‐shaped. Mature oocytes were large (2·6 – 4·4 mm in length) and aligned with the animal pole towards the muscular wall. Reproductively mature females were found throughout the year indicating a protracted reproductive season. The gonado‐somatic index was significantly different between all ovarian stages, but the hepato‐somatic index was not. Females with previtellogenic ovaries had significantly higher plasma concentrations of testosterone than females with vitellogenic or maturing ovaries. There was no significant difference in plasma concentrations of testosterone between females with vitellogenic or maturing ovaries, or in plasma concentrations of 17‐oestradiol between females in all ovarian stages. This study contributes to the knowledge on the reproductive biology of female syngnathids.
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Keywords: Syngnathidae; gonado‐somatic index; ovarian; reproduction; seahorse; steroids

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA), P. O. Box 109-695, Newmarket, Auckland, New Zealand, 2: NIWA, P. O. Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand, 3: University of Auckland, Leigh Marine Laboratory, P. O. Box 349, Warkworth, New Zealand and 4: Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, P. O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: 01 March 2004

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