Reproduction in the male sub-Antarctic fur seal Arctocephalus tropicalis

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Abstract

The reproductive tracts of male sub-Antarctic fur seals Arctocephalus tropicalis (n= 123), taken at Gough Island (40° 20'S, 9° 54'W) between November 1977 and October 1978, were examined. The presence of spermatozoa in the epididymal tubules showed that all males ≥4 years old had reached puberty, and the marked slower increase in mean testis weight and baculum length suggested that sexual (social) maturity was approached by 8-year-olds. Full adulthood was attained at 10–11 years of age based on the peak in mean testis and prostate weights, and mean baculum length. Secondary sexual characteristics were only fully developed in males ≥9 years old. A significant decline in mean testosterone concentration, and in testis, epididymis and prostate weights showed that adult males were reproductively quiescent during winter from May to July when seminiferous and epididymal tubules had lowest mean diameters with no spermatozoa present. Both the mean plasma testosterone concentration and mean testis weight peaked twice during the austral summer. The first peak coincided with the breeding season, and the second peak with the moulting period when adult males were impotent. Photoperiodic cueing might explain this seasonal trend.

Ancillary