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Keywords:

  • androgens;
  • endocrine disruption;
  • glucocorticoids;
  • male pregnancy;
  • prolactin;
  • sex-role reversal

Few studies have examined the underlying hormonal mechanisms that mediate reproductive cyclicity, male pregnancy and reproductive behaviour in syngnathids. Progress in these areas has been hampered by the small size of most species in the family and a lack of validated techniques for assessing endocrine function. Research on a relatively small number of species has suggested that androgens are likely regulators of spermatogenesis and the development of the male brood pouch prior to pregnancy whereas prolactin and corticosteroids synergistically promote brood pouch function during pregnancy. No evidence supports a reversal of reproductive steroid hormone function in sex-role reversed behaviour, but neuropeptides such as arginine vasotocin or isotocin should be examined for their role in regulating parturition and mating behaviour. The diversity of reproductive patterns exhibited by syngnathids suggests that they will provide a unique opportunity to assess how hormonal regulation of integumentary function, gametogenesis and reproductive behaviour have evolved within a teleost lineage. Additionally, their coastal distribution and embryo retention make them potentially important subjects for studies on the effect of endocrine disruption on fitness.