Evidence for protogynous hermaphroditism in some lethrinid fishes



An examination of the size/sex relationships and gonadial structure and histology of eight species of the commercially important family Lethrinidae from the North West Shelf of Australia and the Gulf of Carpentaria suggests that protogynous hermaphroditism is the typical mode of sexuality in these fishes. A linear relationship between size and sex ratio, in which females predominate at smaller sizes and males at larger sizes, was demonstrated in five species for which sufficient information was available. All five of these species showed a considerable overlap in the size distribution of the sexes but there was no evidence for the occurrence of primary males in the populations sampled. The tests of all species examined showed typical ‘secondary male’ morphology and the presence of atretic ovarian material (‘brown bodies’). Individuals with intersex gonads were observed in five species. It is suggested that the effects of fishing on such protogynous fish stocks will depend on the precise mechanims, as yet unknown in lethrinids, that control the onset of sex change.