Neonatal and juvenile alligators from contaminated Lake Apopka in central Florida exhibit abnormal plasma sex steroid concentrations as well as morphological abnormalities of the gonad and phallus. This study addresses whether similar abnormalities occur in juvenile alligators inhabiting six other lakes in Florida. For analysis, animals were partitioned into two subsets, animals 40-79 cm total length (1-3 years old) and juveniles 80-130 cm total length (3-7 years old). Plasma testosterone (T) concentrations were lower in small males from lakes Apopka, Griffin, and Jessup than from Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Similar differences were observed in the larger juveniles, with males from lakes Jessup, Apopka, and Okeechobee having lower plasma T concentrations than Lake Woodruff males. Plasma estradiol-17?? (E2) concentrations were significantly elevated in larger juvenile males from Lake Apopka compared to Lake Woodruff NWR. When compared to small juvenile females from Lake Woodruff NWR, females from lakes Griffin, Apopka, Orange, and Okeechobee had elevated plasma E2 concentrations. Phallus size was significantly smaller in males from lakes Griffin and Apopka when compared to males from Lake Woodruff NWR. An association existed between body size and phallus size on all lakes except Lake Apopka and between phallus size and plasma T concentration on all lakes except lakes Apopka and Orange. Multiple regression analysis, with body size and plasma T concentration as independent covariables, explained the majority of the variation in phallus size on all lakes. These data suggest that the differences in sex steroids and phallus size observed in alligators from Lake Apopka are not limited to that lake, nor to one with a history of a major pesticide spill. Further work examining the relationship of sex steroids and phallus size with specific biotic and abiotic factors, such as antiandrogenic or estrogenic contaminants, is needed.
Additional publication details
Plasma steroid concentrations and male phallus size in juvenile alligators from seven Florida lakes