Reproduction in Male Crotalus adamanteus Beauvois(Eastern Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake): Relationship of Plasma Testosterone to Testis and Kidney Dimensions and the Mating Season
The reproductive ecology of male Crotalus adamanteus Beauvois (Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake) from southwestern Georgia (Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Baker County) was studied from 14 August 2003 to 14 August 2006. Few studies provide information on reproduction of free-living Eastern Diamondbacked Rattlesnakes, and no information is available on the seasonal relationship of plasma sex steroids of males to changes in the reproductive organs (e.g., mass of the testis and kidney) and the mating season. Here, the main goals were to determine whether: (i) males show variation in concentrations of plasma testosterone (T) during the active season (late March through November), (ii) males have elevated (peak) concentrations of plasma T during the single mating season, which has been documented to occur from late summer through early fall in nearby populations, and (iii) there are seasonal changes in length, width, and mass of the testis and kidney during the active season, particularly during the breeding period. There was a significant difference in mean concentrations of plasma T among seasons, with levels in summer significantly greater than those of spring, and levels in spring and fall were not significantly different. Testis mass and width, but not length, varied significantly across seasons. Testis mass paralleled elevated levels of plasma T, with peak mass occurring in the summer. Similarly, testis width was significantly greater in summer than in fall, but there was no significant difference between summer and spring, nor between spring and fall. We found no significant seasonal changes in any of the kidney measurements. Bisexual pairings were coincident or followed the occurrence of elevated levels of plasma T and changes in testis size; however, despite frequent observations, copulations were not observed. Nonetheless, our results support a mating season of late summer/early fall for the present population of Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes.