Marine Biology

, Volume 154, Issue 6, pp 943–951 | Cite as

Transient ontogenetic expression of hermaphroditic gonad morphology within the Gobiosoma group of the Neotropical seven-spined gobies (Teleostei: Gobiidae)

  • Kathleen S. Cole
Original Paper


The Neotropical seven-spined gobies (tribe Gobiosomatini), including the Gobiosoma and Microgobius groups, constitute a speciose, monophyletic gobiid taxon. In particular, member species of the Gobiosoma group exhibit a combination of behavioral diversification and microhabitat specialization that may have played a major role in their collective rapid evolution and high rate of speciation. Functional hermaphroditism, which is common among gobiids, can promote exploitation of patchily distributed micro-niches by countering potential reductions in reproductive opportunities. However, the possible role of functional hermaphroditism in the exploitation of microhabitats and rapid speciation in the Gobiosoma group is unknown. One member species, Tigrigobius multifasciatus, is a functional hermaphrodite. Two other Gobiosoma group species are functionally gonochoric (i.e., constant-sexed), but exhibit transient hermaphroditic ovarian structure among immatures. In this study, ovarian morphology among immature and adult females of several Gobiosoma group species was examined to see if hermaphroditic gonadal features are present. Although no evidence of functional hermaphroditism in the form of precursive accessory gonadal structures (pAGS) associated with the adult ovary was found among newly examined species, all species exhibited the transient expression of hermaphroditic gonadal features associated with the immature ovary. In contrast, among six species of non-Gobiosomatini genera having no record of hermaphroditism, none exhibited similar transient hermaphroditic features associated with the immature ovary. These findings suggest that hermaphroditism may have been an ancestral trait which has been secondarily lost within some Gobiosoma group species. This study also shows that ontogenetic and morphogenic processes within the gobiid reproductive system may provide new insights into the evolution of life history traits and significantly further our understanding of the extraordinary evolutionary success of this group.


Immature Female Vitellogenic Oocyte Immature Ovary Hermaphroditism Microhabitat Specialization 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Specimens and information on materials in their care were provided by J. M. Fitzsimons, D. H. Hoese, S. Jewett, H. Larson, J. Randall, V. G. Springer and R. Winterbottom. Helpful comments on the manuscript were generously provided by L. Parenti, F. Pezold and three anonymous reviewers. Portions of this study were supported by grants from the Smithsonian Institution through the National Museum of Natural History’s Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Program (CCRE Contribution no. 830), a Curatorial Fellowship from the Australian Museum and from funds provided by the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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