Testis and antler dysgenesis in sitka black-tailed deer on Kodiak Island, Alaska: Sequela of environmental endocrine disruption?

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Apr;114 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):51-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8052.


It had been observed that many male Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) on Kodiak Island, Alaska, had abnormal antlers, were cryptorchid, and presented no evidence of hypospadias. We sought to better understand the problem and investigated 171 male deer for phenotypic aberrations and 12 for detailed testicular histopathology. For the low-lying Aliulik Peninsula (AP), 61 of 94 deer were bilateral cryptorchids (BCOs); 70% of these had abnormal antlers. Elsewhere on the Kodiak Archipelago, only 5 of 65 deer were BCOs. All 11 abdominal testes examined had no spermatogenesis but contained abnormalities including carcinoma in situ-like cells, possible precursors of seminoma; Sertoli cell, Leydig cell, and stromal cell tumors; carcinoma and adenoma of rete testis; and microlithiasis or calcifications. Cysts also were evident within the excurrent ducts. Two of 10 scrotal testes contained similar abnormalities, although spermatogenesis was ongoing. We cannot rule out that these abnormalities are linked sequelae of a mutation(s) in a founder animal, followed by transmission over many years and causing high prevalence only on the AP. However, based on lesions observed, we hypothesize that it is more likely that this testis-antler dysgenesis resulted from continuing exposure of pregnant females to an estrogenic environmental agent(s), thereby transforming testicular cells, affecting development of primordial antler pedicles, and blocking transabdominal descent of fetal testes. A browse (e.g., kelp) favored by deer in this locale might carry the putative estrogenic agent(s).

MeSH terms

  • Alaska
  • Animals
  • Antlers / abnormalities*
  • Antlers / drug effects
  • Antlers / pathology
  • Cryptorchidism / chemically induced
  • Cryptorchidism / complications
  • Cryptorchidism / genetics
  • Deer*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Estrogens / toxicity
  • Gonadal Dysgenesis / chemically induced*
  • Hyperplasia / chemically induced
  • Leydig Cells / cytology
  • Leydig Cells / drug effects
  • Male
  • Testicular Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Testicular Neoplasms / etiology
  • Testis / abnormalities*
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / drug effects


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogens