Seasonal changes in serum gonadal steroids associated with migration, mating, and nesting in the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)

Academic Article


  • Adult male loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, exhibited a "prenuptial" spermatogenic cycle that was coincident with increased concentrations of serum testosterone (T). Serum T was high during the months when migration and mating have been recorded for males. In contrast to females, males appear to be annual breeders. Nine reproductively active female C. caretta (as verified through laparoscopy) were tagged with sonic transmitters and were repeatedly bled prior to migration. Four months prior to the nesting season, the ovaries of reproductively active females had hundreds of vitellogenic follicles of approximately 1.5 cm in diameter (i.e., half the size of ovulatory follicles). Approximately 4-6 weeks prior to migration from feeding grounds to mating and nesting areas, serum estradiol-17β (E2) concentrations increased significantly and remained high for approximately 4 weeks, suggesting a period of increased vitellogenesis. During a 1- to 2-week period prior to migration, serum E2 decreased significantly, while serum T concentrations increased (at least) until the time of migration. Serum T, E2, and progesterone (PRO) were elevated during nesting if a turtle was going to nest again during that nesting season. During the last nesting of a season, turtles had low serum concentrations of T, E2, and Pro. The prenuptial pattern of gonadal recrudescence and gonadal steroid production in both male and female C. caretta contrasts with those of many temperate freshwater turtles, and this type of reproductive pattern may have been facilitated by adaptation to a tropical marine environment. © 1990.
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    Author List

  • Wibbels T; Owens DW; Limpus CJ; Reed PC; Amoss MS
  • Start Page

  • 154
  • End Page

  • 164
  • Volume

  • 79
  • Issue

  • 1