Reproductive cycle and fecundity of finetooth sharks from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Published on
13. September 2020

Re‐evaluation of reproductive cycle and fecundity of finetooth sharks Carcharhinus isodon (Valenciennes 1839) from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, with new observations on ovarian cycle and reproductive endocrinology of biennially reproducing sharks

Amanda N. Brown, Bryan S. Frazier, Jim Gelsleichter


To provide updated information on life history for improved fishery management, the reproductive cycle of the finetooth shark Carcharhinus isodon from Northwest Atlantic (NWA) populations was investigated by examining temporal changes in morphology and histology of reproductive organs. Changes in plasma concentrations of gonadal sex hormones in relation to reproductive stage were also examined. Increases in testis width, epididymis head width, plasma testosterone concentrations and occurrence of mature spermatozoa were observed in male sharks between December and April, suggesting a seasonal pattern in reproduction that culminates with copulatory activity in May. Increases in maximum follicular diameter, oviducal gland width, plasma 17β‐estradiol concentrations and occurrence of vitellogenic follicles were observed in non‐pregnant female sharks during the same time period along with the occurrence of newly pregnant females in May, demonstrating strong synchronicity between male and female reproductive cycles. Pregnant females bearing full‐term embryos were also observed in May, indicating that parturition occurs between mid‐May and early June and gestation requires 12 months. Only transient temporal changes in follicle size and oviducal gland width were observed in pregnant females, indicating that reproductive periodicity is biennial; nonetheless, a single female exhibiting signs of concurrent vitellogenesis and pregnancy was observed. Mean brood size ± S.D. was 3.9 ± 0.9 offspring/female. Fecundity was not significantly correlated with female size, in part due to an unexpectedly high rate of early embryo mortality, which occurred in 11% of pregnant females, and was more common in larger individuals. Changes in ovarian activity during mid‐pregnancy were observed, suggesting possible roles for the ovary in regulating some aspects of early to mid‐gestation. This study confirms that earlier characterizations of the reproductive cycle and fecundity in NWA finetooth sharks remain valid for use in fishery management. This study also highlights unusual features of finetooth shark pregnancy (e.g., early embryo death, mid‐pregnancy changes in ovarian function) that may have broader relevance to understanding elasmobranch reproduction.

Journal of Fish Biology, Early View, DOI: 10.1111/jfb.14542


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