Ovarian activity and plasma sex steroid levels of Distichodus antonii in relation to environmental conditions in the upper basin of the Congo River
Distichodus antonii is an endemic fish species of the Congo River basin in which the stocks of wild populations are threatened by overfishing pressure. Knowledge of its reproductive biology would be useful in consideration of conservation and management options for the species. Therefore, this study investigated changes in ovarian activity and levels of steroid profiles in wild populations in relation to variation in temperature and rainfall. Adult females (n = 101, body weight of 3 183 ± 14.75 g, SE) were captured monthly over one year (2013–2014). Apart from evaluation of oocyte diameters and gonad developmental stages, gonado-, hepato-, lipososomatic indices (GSI, HSI, LSI) and plasma levels of sex steroids (testosterone-T, estradiol-17β-E2) were determined. The results suggested a synchronous development of oocytes with two annual reproductive seasons over the one-year study. Plasma T and E2 levels peaked during spawning periods likely reflecting active oogenesis. The highest values of morphosomatic indices were observed during the longest rainfall period in September, and were associated with high steroidogenic activity evidenced by increased E2 production. In addition, more vitellogenic oocytes (September and October) were observed during the latter season than during the short rainy season (in May).
Keywords: Distichodontidae, fish reproduction, oocyte growth, seasonality, steroidogenesis