Sex steroids relative to alternative mating behaviors in the simultaneous hermaphrodite Serranus subligarius (Perciformes: Serranidae)

Horm Behav. 2000 May;37(3):198-211. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.2000.1570.


This study is the first investigation of reproductive endocrinology in a simultaneously hermaphroditic teleost, the belted sandfish (Serranus subligarius). We address two questions: (1) Do steroid hormone levels vary during the spawning season or during the daily spawning cycle of sandfish? (2) Do hormone levels vary relative to an individual's phenotype-size, frequency of spawning and aggressive behaviors, and proportion of testis in the gonad? We analyzed circulating estradiol-17beta (E2), testosterone (T), 11-ketotestosterone (11KT), 17alpha,20beta,21-trihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (20betaS), and 17alpha,20beta-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (DHP) concentrations in a field population. Only E2 levels were significantly higher at the new and full moon, suggesting peak periods of vitellogenesis at these times. Naturally spawning sandfish were sampled every 2 h during the photophase of a 25-h period (12 pm to 1 pm the following day) and gonadosomatic index, degree of oocyte hydration and ovulation, and plasma levels of E2, T, DHP, and 20betaS were analyzed. E2 and T levels did not vary during photophase, suggesting continuous recruitment of oocytes into vitellogenesis. The 20betaS levels peaked around the time of final oocyte maturation. Since frequency of spawning behaviors changes with body size, we captured individuals of various sizes throughout the spawning season and analyzed circulating levels of hormones. 11KT and 20betaS levels increased significantly with body size. In 1992, we quantified frequency of spawning and aggressive behaviors, circulating T and 11KT levels and testicular mass relative to ovotestis mass in focal animals. 11KT levels tended to be positively correlated with frequency of courting male behavior, but were unrelated to the frequency of aggressive behavior or testis mass. Because hormone levels increased with size and frequency of each spawning behavior changes with size, we propose that sex steroids influence growth-related changes in spawning tactics of individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cortodoxone / analogs & derivatives
  • Cortodoxone / blood
  • Disorders of Sex Development*
  • Estradiol / blood*
  • Female
  • Hydroxyprogesterones / blood
  • Male
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Organ Size
  • Perciformes / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Seasons
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Testis / physiology
  • Testosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Hydroxyprogesterones
  • 17,20-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • 17,20,21-trihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one
  • 11-ketotestosterone
  • Cortodoxone