Differences in plasma steroid levels may reflect behavioral, gonadal, or morphological specializations that characterize different male reproductive phenotypes in teleost fishes. In the present study, we investigated whether differences in plasma steroid levels exist between two distinct male morphs shown in the corkwing wrasse Symphodus melops. In addition, we examined differences in male reproductive traits, including gonad mass, sperm motility, and sperm concentration, between the two male types. Possible associations between plasma steroid levels and reproductive traits were also investigated. The results indicated that males with typical male secondary sexual characters (territorial males) had higher plasma levels of 11-ketotestosterone (11kT) compared to smaller males with female secondary sexual characters (female mimics). The female mimics in turn had higher plasma levels of both testosterone (T) and 17beta-estradiol. In addition, female mimics had relatively larger gonads and longer-lived sperm than territorial males. Relative gonad mass covaried significantly with the plasma levels of 11kT and T among the morphs, indicating that the relative gonad size correlates positively with the plasma level of these two steroids. However, there was no significant covariance between sperm traits and plasma steroids for the two male morphs. Hence, our results do not indicate any causal link between sperm quality and hormones.
(c) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).