Abstract

Studies of fish reproductive biology often involve quantitative estimates based on histological sections of the ovaries. Prior characterization of gonad oocyte distribution patterns in females is fundamental to these studies. Heterogeneous distribution requires a standardized sampling protocol to prevent bias in data such as fecundity estimations. In contrast, homogeneous distribution allows sampling of any portion of the gonads with no risk of bias. A preliminary study was done of gonad oocyte distribution mode in a hogfish Lachnolaimus maximus population in the southern Gulf of Mexico. A total of 23 sexually-active females were selected and classified by reproductive stage. Six histological sections were taken from the anterior, middle and posterior regions of the left and right ovary lobes of each individual. Digital image processing (AxioVision and Image ProPlus programs) was used to estimate oocyte density per unit area in different development stages. Contingency tables were used to analyze oocyte distribution frequencies between the regions of each lobe and between the lobes of each ovary. This was supported with a Pearson’s χ2 test for goodness-of-fit and a replicated G test to confirm distribution heterogeneity. Oocyte type distribution was homogeneous in almost all the females regardless of ovary region or lobe. This was particularly the case for females in the actively spawning reproductive subphase. Females in this subphase are normally used to estimate batch fecundity in fish species such as L. maximus, which have asynchronous oocyte development and batch spawning. However, heterogeneity was present in tertiary vitellogenesis oocytes in the right lobe of females in the spawning capable reproductive phase. In these cases, it is preferable to take histological sections from any region of the left ovary lobe to ensure unbiased estimation of fecundity and adequate characterization of this species’ sexual cycle.

Keywords: reproduction, ovarian homogeneity, hogfish, Gulf of Mexico.