Disruption of sexual selection in sand gobies (Pomatoschistus minutus) by 17 alpha-ethinyl estradiol, an endocrine disruptor

M Saaristo, JA Craft, KK Lehtonen, H Björk, Kai Lindström

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    53 Citations (Scopus)


    In aquatic environments, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that interfere with the reproductive physiology of males form a threat to the reproduction of populations. This is often manifested as decreased sexual performance or sterility among males. We show that exposure to EDCs can directly affect the mating system of a marine fish, the sand goby (Pomatoschistus minutus). We exposed males for 1 to 4 weeks to two different concentrations (5 ng L-1 and 24 ng L-1) of 17 alpha-ethinyl estradiol (EE2); a synthetic compound mimicking estrogen and a water control. The sand goby exhibits a polygynous mating system, in which male mating success is typically skewed towards the largest males, resulting in strong sexual selection for increased male size. Our experiment shows that when males have been exposed to EE2, male size has a smaller effect on mating success, resulting in weaker sexual selection on male size as compared to the control. There was an interaction between treatment and exposure time on the expression of vitellogenin and zona radiata protein mRNAs. Males exposed to high EE2 reached much higher expression levels than males exposed to low EE2. Of the somatic markers, the hepatosomatic index was lower in males exposed to high EE2 than in the low EE2 and control males. Our results suggest that exposure to EDCs can have effects on the mating system before physiological changes are observable. These effects can be of profound nature as they interfere with sexual selection, and may in the long run lead to the loss of traits maintained through sexual selection.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)530–537
    Number of pages8
    JournalHormones and Behavior
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2009
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Endocrine disruptor
    • Molecular biomarkers
    • Pomatoschistus
    • Reproductive behavior
    • Sand goby
    • Sexual selection

    Cite this