Assessing reproductive status in elasmobranch fishes using steroid hormones extracted from skeletal muscle tissue

Conserv Physiol. 2013 Nov 4;1(1):cot028. doi: 10.1093/conphys/cot028. eCollection 2013.


Elasmobranch fishes (sharks, skates, and rays) are particularly susceptible to anthropogenic threats, making a thorough understanding of their life history characteristics essential for proper management. Historically, elasmobranch reproductive data have been collected by lethal sampling, an approach that is problematic for threatened and endangered species. However, recent studies have demonstrated that non-lethal approaches can be as effective as lethal ones for assessment of the reproductive status of an animal. For example, plasma has been used to examine concentrations of steroid hormones. Additionally, skeletal muscle tissue, which can be obtained non-lethally and with minimal stress, can also be used to quantify concentrations of steroid hormones. Skeletal muscle progesterone, testosterone, and estradiol concentrations were determined to be statistically significant indicators of reproductive status in the oviparous Leucoraja erinacea, the yolk-dependent viviparous Squalus acanthias, and the yolk-sac placental viviparous Rhizoprionodon terraenovae. The results of the present study demonstrate that steroid hormones present in non-lethally harvested skeletal muscle tissue can be used as reliable indicators of reproductive status in elasmobranchs.

Keywords: Steroid hormones; elasmobranch; non-lethal sampling; reproductive status.