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Keywords:

  • Alligator mississippiensis;
  • ovary;
  • oogenesis;
  • folliculogenesis;
  • lacunae

Abstract

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) ovary development is incomplete at hatching. During the months following hatching, the cortical processes of oogenesis started in ovo continues and folliculogenesis is initiated. Additionally, the medullary region of the gonad undergoes dramatic restructuring. We describe alligator ovarian histology at hatching, 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months of age in order to characterize the timing of morphological development and compare these findings to chicken ovary development. At hatching, the ovarian cortex presents a germinal epithelium containing oogonia and a few primary oocytes irregularly scattered between somatic epithelial cells. The hatchling medulla shows fragmentation indicative of the formation of lacunae. By 1 week of age, oocytes form growing nests and show increased interactions with somatic cells, indicative of the initiation of folliculogenesis. Medullary lacunae increase in diameter and contain secretory material in their lumen. At 1 month, nest sizes and lacunar diameters continue to enlarge. Pachytene oocytes surrounded by somatic cells are more frequent. Trabeculae composed of dense irregular connective tissue divide cortical nests. Three months after hatching oocytes in meiotic stages of prophase I up to diplotene are present. The ovary displays many enlarged follicles with oocytes in diplotene arrest, thecal layers, lampbrush chromosomes, and complete layers of follicular cells. The medulla is an elaborated complex of vascularized lacunae underlying the cortex and often containing discrete lymphoid aggregates. While the general morphology of the alligator ovary is similar to that of the chicken ovary, the progression of oogenesis and folliculogenesis around hatching is notably slower in alligators. Diplotene oocytes are observed at hatching in chickens, but not until 3 months in alligators. Folliculogenesis is completed at 3 weeks in chickens whereas it is still progressing at 3 months in alligators. J. Morphol., 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.