Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 97, Issue 9, pp 1013–1029

Ontogenetic testicular development and spermatogenesis in rays: the Cownose Ray, Rhinoptera bonasus, as a model


DOI: 10.1007/s10641-014-0267-2

Cite this article as:
Poulakis, G.R. & Grier, H.J. Environ Biol Fish (2014) 97: 1013. doi:10.1007/s10641-014-0267-2


An understanding of testicular anatomy, development, and seasonality has implications for studies of morphology, behavior, physiology, and bioenergetics of males. Ontogenetic testicular development and spermatogenesis is essentially unknown for chondrichthyans. We examined embryo, juvenile, and adult male Cownose Rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) during development and throughout the annual reproductive cycle. Spermatogonia and Sertoli cells originated from germ cells and somatic cells, respectively, in the embryonic testicular germinal epithelium. In embryos and small juveniles, discrete regions of spermatocyst production appeared within a series of papillae that projected from the dorsal surface of each testis. Because these papillary germinal zones appeared to proliferate through ontogeny, we hypothesize that (1) the germinal zones of juvenile and adult testes are derived from embryonic testicular papillae that form from the germinal epithelium and (2) the papillae become the dorso-central portion of the distinct testicular lobes that form at maturation due to increased spermatocyst production. Our observations indicate that testicular development and the process of spermatogenesis began during embryonic development and increased in scale through ontogeny until maturation, when distinct testicular lobes formed and began enlarging or shrinking based on the annual reproductive cycle. Gonadosomatic indices peaked corresponding to seasonal increased sperm production between January and April, just prior to the April–June mating period. In all life stages, spermatocysts had efferent ducts associated with them from their formation through all stages of development. Year-round presence in the Charlotte Harbor estuarine system, Florida made R. bonasus a good model for beginning to understand ontogenetic gonad development and spermatogenesis in chondrichthyans, especially viviparous rays.


Elasmobranch Germinal epithelium Histology Reproduction Spermatocyst Viviparity 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFish and Wildlife Research Institute, Charlotte Harbor Field LaboratoryPort CharlotteUSA
  2. 2.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFish and Wildlife Research InstituteSt. PetersburgUSA

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