TitleProblems of the gonad index and what can be done: analysis of the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsEbert, TA, Hernandez, JC, Russell, MP
JournalMarine Biology
Keywordsnew-south-wales paracentrotus-lividus echinodermata reproductive-cycle heliocidaris-erythrogramma droebachiensis muller sympatric populations contrasting habitats resource-allocation food availability spiny lobster

The gonad index, GI, is widely used as a measure of changes in reproductive state. There are, however, problems with its use because it is based on the implicit assumption of an isometric relationship between gonad size and some measure of total size. If, for example, gonad weight and total weight are used, the exponent for an allometric relationship usually is ignored and hence assumed to be 1.0. It is further assumed that this exponent is fixed for all states of the reproductive cycle and that gonads begin to develop at size = 0. Data for the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus at Gregory Point, Oregon, USA, gathered over a period of 31 months showed that these assumptions cannot be supported. The relationship is better modeled with a function that (1) takes into account size of initial gonad production and (2) allows allometric exponents that vary with site or season. Thus, a better approach is to use a wide range of sizes to estimate size when gonads begin to develop and then, with this correction, ANCOVA to test for differences of gonad size among samples. Gonad changes at Gregory Point were estimated using fixed sizes of 5 cm diameter and 60 g total weight. Publishing means for X and Y, the standard error of the estimate, R (2), and slope for each regression are shown to be sufficient to compare our results with results across studies.