Maternal serum and yolk hormone concentrations in the placental viviparous bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo

Charles A. Manire, L. E.L. Rasmussen, James Gelsleichter, David L. Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Among vertebrates, maternal transfer of hormones to offspring has been studied extensively in mammals (placental transfer) and more recently in oviparous birds and reptiles (yolk transfer). The placental viviparous bonnethead shark, Sphyrna tiburo, allows the investigation of both yolk and placental hormone transfers in a single organism. In this species, yolk provides nutrition for the first half of embryonic development and placental transfer provides the second half. As sex determination is complete prior to development of placental connections, it was postulated that yolk hormones would have a prominent role in embryonic regulation. The goal of the current study was to determine serum and yolk hormone concentrations during five reproductive stages, from pre-ovulatory through pre-implantation (pre-placental) stages. Radioimmunoassay was used to determine 17β-estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone concentrations in both serum and yolk. When yolk and serum concentrations were compared, the yolk had significantly higher concentrations of both estradiol and progesterone during post-ovulation and early pregnancy. Yolk concentrations of testosterone were significantly less than serum at pre-ovulation, but there were no differences after that stage. When yolk concentrations were compared between stages, significantly higher concentrations of estradiol were present in ovulatory, post-ovulatory, and pre-implantation stages, while progesterone was significantly higher in post-ovulatory, early pregnancy, and pre-implantation stages and testosterone was higher in pre-ovulation. Most of these results are consistent with the published findings in birds and reptiles. Further, in the bonnethead shark, they suggest that yolk transfer of hormones is adequate for sexual differentiation in embryonic development and that estradiol probably has a significant developmental role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-247
Number of pages7
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Bonnethead shark
  • Estradiol
  • Hormone
  • Sphyrna tiburo
  • Testosterone
  • Yolk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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