We investigated sex differences in cardiovascular maturation in embryos of the snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), a species with temperature-dependent sex determination. One group of eggs was incubated at 26.5°C to produce males. Another group of eggs was incubated at 26.5°C until embryos reached stage 17, eggs were then shifted to 31°C for six days to produce females, and returned to 26.5°C for the rest of embryogenesis. Thus, males and females were at the same temperature when autonomic tone was determined and for most of development. Cholinergic blockade increased resting blood pressure (Pm) and heart rate (fH) in both sexes at 75% and 90% of incubation. However, the magnitude of the fH response was enhanced in males when compared to females at 90% of incubation. β-adrenergic blockade increased Pm at 75% of incubation in both sexes but had no effect at 90% of incubation. β-adrenergic blockade reduced fH at both time points but produced a stronger response at 90% versus 75% of incubation. We found that α-adrenergic blockade decreased Pm in both sexes at 75% and 90% of incubation and decreased fH at 75% of incubation in both sexes. At 90% of incubation, fH decreased in females but not males. Although these data clearly demonstrate sexual dimorphism in the autonomic regulation of cardiovascular physiology in embryos, further studies are needed to test whether differences are caused by endocrine signals from gonads or by a hormone-independent temperature effect.

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