The reproductive hormone cycle of adult female American alligators from a barrier island population

Heather J. Hamlin, Russell H. Lowers, Satomi Kohno, Naoko Mitsui-Watanabe, Haruna Amano, Akihiko Hara, Yasuhiko Ohta, Shinichi Miyagawa, Taisen Iguchi, Louis J. Guillette

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Comparatively, little data are available detailing the geographic variation that exists in the reproductive endocrinology of adult alligators, especially those living in barrier islands. The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MI) is a unique barrier island environment and home to the Kennedy Space Center (FL, USA). Seasonal patterns of sex steroids were assessed in adult female American alligators from MI monthly from 2008 to 2009, with additional samples collected at more random intervals in 2006, 2007, and 2010. Plasma 17b-estradiol and vitellogenin concentrations peaked in April, coincident with courtship and mating, and showed patterns similar to those observed in adult female alligators in other regions. Plasma concentrations of progesterone, however, showed patterns distinctly different than those reported for alligator populations in other regions and remained relatively constant throughout the year. Plasma DHEA peaked in July around the time of oviposition, decreased in August, and then remained constant for the remaining months, except for a moderate increase in October. Circulating concentrations of DHEA have not been previously assessed in a female crocodilian, and plasma concentrations coincident with reproductive activity suggest a reproductive and/or behavioral role. Interestingly, plasma testosterone concentrations peaked in May of 2008, as has been shown in female alligator populations in other regions, but showed no peak in 2009, demonstrating dramatic variability from year to year. Surveys showed 2009 to be particularly depauperate of alligator nests in MI, and it is possible that testosterone could serve as a strong indicator of breeding success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-863
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


Cite this

Hamlin, H. J., Lowers, R. H., Kohno, S., Mitsui-Watanabe, N., Amano, H., Hara, A., Ohta, Y., Miyagawa, S., Iguchi, T., & Guillette, L. J. (2014). The reproductive hormone cycle of adult female American alligators from a barrier island population. Reproduction, 147(6), 855-863.