The seasonal patterns of two primary plasma androgens, testosterone (T) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), were assessed in adult male alligators from the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a unique barrier island environment and home to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Samples were collected monthly from 2008 to 2009, with additional samples collected at more random intervals in 2007 and 2010. Plasma T concentrations peaked in April, coincident with breeding and courtship, and declined rapidly throughout the summer. Seasonal plasma T patterns in smaller though reproductively active adult males differed from those in their larger counterparts during the breeding season. Both size classes showed significant increases in plasma T concentration from February to March, at the beginning of the breeding season. However, smaller adults did not experience the peak in plasma T concentrations in April that were observed in larger adults, and their concentrations were significantly lower than those of larger males for the remainder of the breeding season. Plasma DHEA concentrations peaked in May and were significantly reduced by June. This is the first study to demonstrate the presence of DHEA in a crocodilian, and the high plasma DHEA concentrations that paralleled the animals' reproductive activity suggest a reproductive and/or behavioral role in adult male alligators. Similar to androgen variations in some birds, plasma DHEA concentrations in the alligators were considerably higher than T concentrations during the nonbreeding season, suggesting a potential role in maintaining nonbreeding seasonal aggression.
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Vol. 85 • No. 6