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Sexual development and reproductive pattern of the Mutton hamlet, Alphestes afer (Teleostei: Epinephelidae): a dyandric, hermaphroditic reef fish

There is little knowledge on the reproduction of the genus Alphestes. The reproduction of the Mutton hamlet, Alphestes afer, sampled in Pernambuco reefs (Brazil) was studied based on macroscopic analysis during reproductive period and histological analysis of gonad material from March 2008 to October 2009. This study showed that A. afer is a diandric, protogynous hermaphrodite. Sex change followed protogynous mode in two pathways: primary males formed from immature female individuals or secondary males formed from resting, ripe or spent female individuals. The numerical distribution of gonad classes by size indicated that females from 11-18 cm L T were immature while females from 16-25 cm L T and males from 12-22 cm L T were in various stages of gonadal development. Individuals identified as immature bisexual and transitional (presenting both ovarian and sperm tissue) were sized from 16-24 cm L T. Size of first reproduction for females was 18 cm L T and for males was 12 cm L T. Alphestes afer showed multiple spawning, with spawning season period from August to December 2008 and from August to October 2009. The sex-ratio (females: males) in 2008 and 2009 was 0.94:1 during the months of spawning season. Males were smaller than females, reaching maximum size of 22 cm compared to 25 cm observed for females. Males showed a high sperm competition rank (3.8), suggesting intense sperm competition. This latter is a possible indication of a shift in the mating group structure from paired to group spawning. The presence of small males added to high sperm competition index, suggest that this species, while retaining the protogynous pattern, has a reproductive strategy similar to gonochorist epinephelids.

Juvenile sex change; Protogynous hermaphrodite; Reproduction

Sociedade Brasileira de Ictiologia Neotropical Ichthyology, Núcleo de Pesquisas em Limnologia, Ictiologia e Aquicultura, Universidade Estadual de Maringá., Av. Colombo, 5790, 87020-900, Phone number: +55 44-3011-4632 - Maringá - PR - Brazil