The Role of Steroids in Reproduction in Female Elasmobranchs and Reptiles

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Adequate evidence exists to suggest the importance of temporal changes in steroid hormone ratios in the normal reproductive/vitellogenin cycle in oviparous and viviparous elasmobranchs and reptiles. In oviparous species, where the cycle is relatively short, secretion of gonadal hormones is synchronous; thus inhibitory actions of progesterone (P) on hepatic or reproductive tract functions would be offset by stimulatory actions of estradiol (E), resulting in appropriate vitellogenin secretion and reproductive tract development. In viviparous species, temporal asynchrony of E and P secretion occurs, and the actions of the individual hormones can be more easily dissected out. Thus, during gestation, where P is the dominant hormone, antagonistic or stimulatory actions of E may be prevented, and the inhibitory action of P on vitellogensis dominant. Hence vitellogenesis is limited to the follicular phase and eggs are retained.

Although the elasmobranch and reptilian species discussed here do not form a continuum through phylogenesis, but rather are extant forms of a particular line of evolution, it is possible to extrapolate from these observations to the probable endocrine interactions in a species as viviparity evolves from oviparity. The theoretical intermediate stage would involve; (a) egg retention, (b) extension of the luteal phase and increased P secretion and (c) resulting in E/P asynchrony and potential expression of “independent” P action, egg retention and yolk suppression.

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Original version is available from the publisher at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/096007609190278D