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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Ocean Science and Engineering


As the number of fish reproduction studies has proliferated, so has the number of gonadal classification schemes and terms. This hasmade it difficult for both scientists and resourcemanagers to communicate and for comparisons to be made among studies. We propose the adoption of a simple, universal terminology for the phases in the reproductive cycle, which can be applied to all male and female elasmobranch and teleost fishes. These phases were chosen because they define key milestones in the reproductive cycle; the phases include immature, developing, spawning capable, regressing, and regenerating. Although the temporal sequence of events during gamete development in each phase may vary among species, each phase has specific histological and physiological markers and is conceptually universal. The immature phase can occur only once. The developing phase signals entry into the gonadotropin-dependent stage of oogenesis and spermatogenesis and ultimately results in gonadal growth. The spawning capable phase includes (1) those fish with gamete development that is sufficiently advanced to allow for spawning within the current reproductive cycle and (2) batch-spawning females that show signs of previous spawns (i.e., postovulatory follicle complex) and that are also capable of additional spawns during the current cycle. Within the spawning capable phase, an actively spawning subphase is defined that corresponds to hydration and ovulation in females and spermiation in males. The regressing phase indicates completion of the reproductive cycle and, for many fish, completion of the spawning season. Fish in the regenerating phase are sexually mature but reproductively inactive. Species-specific histological criteria or classes can be incorporated within each of the universal phases, allowing for more specific divisions (subphases) while preserving the overall reproductive terminology for comparative purposes. This terminology can easily be modified for fishes with alternate reproductive strategies, such as hermaphrodites (addition of a transition phase) and livebearers (addition of a gestation phase).


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