Authors
  • Hanson, Kyle C.
  • Gravel, Marie-Ange
  • Graham, Ashley
  • Shoji, Akiko.
  • Cooke, Steven J.
Universities

Summary

In fish, sex determination is a plastic process regulated by a relatively small number of genes that, in turn, leads to a cascade of organism level effects. In other animal taxa, intersexual variation is widespread and has implications in the realms of morphology, behavior, physiology, and bioenergetics. Although relatively well documented in the literature focusing on mammals, birds, and reptiles, the degree to which sex-specific variation is considered is unknown in fish and fisheries research. We examined the scientific literature to evaluate the important sex-related differences in fish and highlighted why some of these differences are of great biological consequence. Sex-specific differences in morphology included sexual size dimorphism, external traits such as coloration, and internal anatomy such as neuron structure. Behavioral differences between the sexes are often linked to reproduction, but there are some documented differences (i.e., variation in aggression and predator avoidance) that are independent of the reproductive period. The potential for sex-related physiological differences are relatively unexplored for fish, although there is strong evidence for disparity in hormone regulation, stress, and immune responses between the sexes. Sex-related variation is also poorly examined in the field of bioenergetics despite the fact that differences in energy requirements and expenditure should and do vary between the sexes. A quantitative literature review of several prominent fisheries journals revealed that sex is often overlooked in fish and fisheries research (between 15 and 44% of articles), which may impair the ability of researchers to detect biologically relevant differences, which in turn can greatly affect management decisions. Although there has been a growing recognition that intra-specific variation (at the population level) is important in fisheries management and research, there is also a need to consider that intersexual diversity exists and is important to understand, conserve, and manage fish and fisheries resources.

Location