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Evol Appl. 2013 Dec;6(8):1160-70. doi: 10.1111/eva.12093. Epub 2013 Aug 2.

The effects of synthetic estrogen exposure on premating and postmating episodes of selection in sex-role-reversed Gulf pipefish.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Texas A&M University College Station, TX, USA.
  • 2Department of Biology, Texas A&M University College Station, TX, USA ; Department of Biology, University of Maryland College Park, MD, USA.


Environmental estrogens have been shown to affect populations of aquatic organisms in devastating ways, including feminization of males, alterations in mating behaviors, and disruption of sexual selection. Studies have shown 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) exposure to induce female-like secondary sexual traits in male Gulf pipefish, changing how females perceive affected males. We aimed to understand the effects of EE2 exposure on the sex-role-reversed mating system and the strength of selection in Gulf pipefish. We used artificial Gulf pipefish breeding aggregations and microsatellite-based parentage analysis to determine maternity. We then calculated the opportunity for selection and selection differentials on body size for both sexes during three consecutive episodes of selection. Exposure to EE2 did not affect the strength of selection, likely due to the unusual sex-role-reversed mating system found in this species. With respect to multiply mated females, EE2-exposed females produced more eggs with higher embryo survivorship than nonexposed females. Thus, short-term exposure to low concentrations (2.0 ng/L) of EE2 in Gulf pipefish enhanced female reproductive success. However, higher EE2 concentrations (5.0 ng/L) caused complete reproductive failure in Gulf pipefish males. These results call for more work on the long-term effects of EE2 exposure in Gulf pipefish in artificial and natural populations.


EE2; Gulf pipefish; selection; sex-role-reversed mating system; synthetic estrogen

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