The aim of this study was to assess monthly testicular development in the cultured breeding stock of sterlet, Acipenser ruthenus, using histological and serum sex steroid changes. Testicular development in the adult male was examined monthly and showed four distinct phases including resting, pre- spawning, spawning and post- spawning. Also, seasonal changes of the testes were described according to its variations in gonadosomatic index (GSI) during different phases of testicular development.
Using histology, we identified continuous spermatogenesis and asynchronous gonad development pattern in the testes of male sterlet, which shows that regulation of annual gonadal cycle is influenced by season. Results also showed variation in the GSI value and number of spermatogenic cells according to each season during annual cycle of gonad, as the highest value of GSI was recorded during spawning phase (spring; March- May). Hormonal profiles of 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) showed peak, which indicated a seasonal pattern of gonadal development.
The 11-KT concentration increased considerably during the spermatogenesis (pre- spawning phase) and remained quite high throughout the pre- spermiation period. In the final phase of testicular development (spawning phase), the 11-KT markedly dropped. This study undertook an examination of complete reproductive development in cultured sterlet sturgeon to provide a valuable guide for the future sterlet studies, and allows comparison of reproductive development between sturgeon species.