Marine Science Faculty Publications

Dynamics of Sex Reversal in the Marbled Swamp Eel (Synbranchus Marmoratus Bloch, 1795), a Diandric Hermaphrodite from Marechal Dutra Reservoir, Northeastern Brazil

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This study characterizes the dynamics of sex reversal in the marbled swamp eel, Synbranchus marmoratus (Osteichthyes: Synbranchidae), a diandric hermaphrodite, within the context of managing species with complex sex allocations. Monthly sampling in Marechal Dutra Reservoir, northeastern Brazil, was conducted using metal eel traps from July, 2013, to June, 2014, during which a total of 288 individuals were captured. Morphological and histological comparisons of gonads identified four sex types: primary males (n = 18), females (n = 197), transitional individuals (n = 30), and secondary males (n = 43). Primary males were smallest, ranging 18–32 cm total length. Females were numerically dominant throughout the 1-year sampling period, and ranged 20–60 cm. Transitional individuals ranged 32–60 cm, and secondary males ranged 46–74 cm. The otolith-based age of 52 specimens ranged 0.5 to 5+ year. Primary males were only observed at ages 0.5 and 1, and transitional individuals were only observed at ages 3 and 4 during the female-to-secondary-male transition, supporting the existence of two types of individuals: gonochoristic males and protogynous hermaphrodites. This observation was further supported by histological observations of deteriorating ovarian tissue in transitional individuals. Given the length of time required for individuals to attain secondary male status, this species appears to be particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation. Comparisons with results from other studies suggest sex allocations and adult size distributions vary substantially within this species’ range, adding complexity to management efforts.

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Journal of Applied Ichthyology, v. 33, issue 3, p. 443-449