Male Oyster Toadfish Opsanus tau produce an advertisement call, the boatwhistle, using sexually dimorphic sonic muscles attached to the swimbladder. The fundamental frequency and duration of the boatwhistle change seasonally suggesting hormonal modulation of the output of pattern generators in the brain. The toadfish has an unusual protracted reproductive cycle in which testes contain mature sperm throughout the year, and females develop large eggs during late summer and fall for spawning the following spring although some may mate in the fall. This study quantified gonad development and plasma androgens in males and females throughout a seasonal cycle to relate them to the prolonged reproductive cycle and to quantitative changes in boatwhistle parameters. Median levels of testosterone (T) and 11- ketotestosterone (11KT) in males peak in May during the early part of the spawning season (461 pg/mL for T and 3746 for 11KT) and decline to 153 and 43 pg/mL, respectively, in June although spawning continues into July. A minor increase in gonosomatic index (GSI) and levels of both androgens (180 and 94 pg/mL, respectively) occurs in October. Median levels of T (328 pg/mL) and GSI in females also peak in May. In June, T levels drop in spawned females but remain elevated in those still gravid. Ovaries start to develop in late summer, and T levels increase above levels of individuals spawned in June. A spring peak in T in unspawned females and increasing levels in the fall correlate with estradiol (E) levels. Androgen levels do not correlate with the seasonal cycle in boatwhistle parameters suggesting that some other factor is responsible.
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Vol. 2004 • No. 2