Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 867–874 | Cite as

Quantification of whole brain arginine vasotocin for two Syngnathus pipefishes: elevated concentrations correlated with paternal brooding



Arginine vasotocin (AVT) regulates many aspects of fish physiology and behavior including courtship and reproduction. This study begins to address whether paternal functions for AVT have independently evolved in species in which paternal behavior has evolved. We quantified AVT in the brains of Syngnathus fuscus and Syngnathus floridae which, like other pipefishes and seahorses of the family Syngnathidae, brood embryos within specialized structures of the male. For both species, we measured AVT concentrations seventeenfold higher for some males during brooding compared to post-brooding males. Comparable whole brain AVT concentrations between gravid females and males with broods at some embryonic development stages suggest physiological similarities that we hypothesize is related to nutrient provisioning but should be elucidated with further studies including a detailed anatomical analysis of AVT production. Earlier studies have identified differences in the brooding structures of these species. Here we documented interspecific differences in the variability and mean AVT concentration for non-brooding males, the brood stage showing a return to post-brooding concentrations, and the variability of AVT concentrations for brooding males with embryos in some development stages. Future investigations should use these data to investigate the potential for divergent AVT function between species, sexes, and brooding males with embryos of different developmental stages.


Arginine vasotocin Brooding Syngnathidae Parental nutrient allocation 



We thank the Marine Science Consortium of Wallops Island, VA for the use of their facility and equipment. We also thank E. Anderson, B. Blaine, D. Hardee, J. Marshall, A. Martin, W. Sites, T. Stueckle, and R. Torres for assistance in field collections and laboratory maintenance and J. Flores for the use of his sonicator. Pipefish collection was approved by the Commonwealth of Virginia Marine Resources Commission (permits 03-36 and 04-21). All laboratory animal care and methods complied with regulations enforced by the West Virginia University Animal Care and Use Committee (protocol 03-0501 (November 2003)). This research was supported by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, the West Virginia University Research Corporation, and the West Virginia University Department of Biology. Current funding is provided by the National Science Foundation grant IOS-0722120.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Risk Assessment Branch, United States Army Engineer Research and Development CenterVicksburgUSA

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