Estimates of body sizes at maturation and at sex change, and the spawning seasonality and sex ratio of the endemic Hawaiian grouper (Hyporthodus quernus, F. Epinephelidae)


DeMartini, Edward E., Alan R. Everson, and Ryan S. Nichols
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A case study of the reproductive biology of the endemic Hawaiian grouper or hapu’upu’u (Hyporthodus quernus) is presented as a model for comprehensive future studies of economically important epinephelid groupers. Specimens were collected throughout multiple years (1978–81, 1992–93, and 2005–08) from most reefs and banks of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The absence of small males, presence of atretic oocytes and brown bodies in testes of mature males, and both developed ovarian and testicular tissues in the gonads of five transitional fish provided evidence of protogynous hermaphroditism. No small mature males were collected, indicating that Hawaiian grouper are monandrous (all males are sex-changed females). Complementary microscopic criteria also were used to assign reproductive stage and estimate median body sizes (L50) at female sexual maturity and at adult sex change from female to male. The L50 at maturation and at sex change was 580 ±8 (95% confidence interval [CI]) mm total length (TL) and 895 ±20 mm TL, respectively. The adult sex ratio was strongly female biased (6:1). Spawning seasonality was described by using gonadosomatic indices. Females began ripening in the fall and remained ripe through April. A February–June main spawning period that followed peak ripening was deduced from the proportion of females whose ovaries contained hydrated oocytes, postovulatory follicles, or both. Testes weights were not affected by season; average testes weight was only about 0.2% of body weight—an order of magnitude smaller than that for ovaries that peaked at 1–3% of body weight. The species’ reproductive life history is discussed in relation to its management.