Sex-steroid and thyroid hormones are critical regulators of growth and reproduction in all vertebrates, and several recent studies suggest that environmental chemicals can alter circulating concentrations of these hormones. This study examines plasma concentrations of estradiol-171?? (E2), testosterone (T), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4) in juvenile alligators (60-140 cm total length) from two contaminated lakes and one reference lake in Florida. First, the data were analyzed by comparing hormone concentrations among males and females from the different lakes. Whereas there were no differences in plasma E2 concentrations among animals of the three lakes, male alligators from the contaminated lakes (Lake Apopka and Lake Okeechobee) had significantly lower plasma T concentrations compared 10 males from the reference take (Lake Woodruff). Concentrations of thyroid hormones also differed in animals of the three lakes, with T4 concentrations being elevated in Lake Okeechobee males compared to Lake Woodruff males. Second, the relationship between body size and hormone concentration was examined using regression analysis. Most notably for steroid hormones, no clear relationship was detected between E2 and total length in Apopka females (r2 0.09, p = 0.54) or between T and total length in Apopka males (r2 = 0.007, p = 0.75). Females from Apopka (r2 = 0.318, p = 0.09) and Okeechobee (r2 = 0.222, p = 0.09) exhibited weak correlations between T3 and total length. Males from Apopka (r2 = 0.015, p = 0.66) and Okeechobee (r2 = 0.128, p = 0.19) showed no correlation between T4 and total length. These results indicate: some of the previously reported abnormalities in steroid hormones of hatchling alligators persist, at least, through the juvenile years; steroid and thyroid hormones are related to body size in juvenile alligators from the reference lake, whereas alligators living in lakes Apopka and Okeechobee experience alterations in circulating thyroid and steroid hormones in relationship to body size; and a number of the hormone abnormalities reported previously for Lake Apopka alligators are observed in alligators from Lake Okeechobee - a lake associated with numerous contaminant sources but no major chemical spill. The endocrine alterations reported in this study are hypothesized to be a response to embryonic exposure to endocrine-disrupting contaminants.
Additional publication details
Sex-steroid and thyroid hormone concentrations in juvenile alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) from contaminated and reference lakes in Florida, USA