Although neonatal development is generally associated with increased levels of circulating testosterone (T) and estradiol (E2), food deprivation may inhibit steroidogenesis. Therefore, these potentially conflicting stimuli were examined in fasting weaned northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) pups by measuring serum concentrations of T, E2, progesterone (P4), and luteinizing hormone (LH) by either radioimmunoassay (P4, LH) or enzymeimmunoassay (T, E2). Blood samples were obtained from 20 male and 20 female pups at both early (<1 wk postweaning) and late (6-8 wk postweaning) periods during their natural postweaning fast. T in males (early: 2.9 +/- 0.4 ng/mL; late: 16 +/- 2 ng/mL; P < 0.0001) and E2 in females (early: 42 +/- 6 pg/mL; late: 67 +/- 5 pg/mL; P < 0.01) increased between the two measurement periods, while P4 (early: 2.5 +/- 0.3 ng/mL; late: 2.1 +/- 0.3 ng/mL; P > 0.05) did not. LH increased (early: 46 +/- 4 pg/mL; late: 65 +/- 6 pg/mL; P < 0.05) in males but not in females (early: 69 +/- 9 pg/mL; late: 65 +/- 6 pg/mL; P > 0.05). Increases in LH and T suggest that LH may stimulate T secretion. Alternatively, relatively low concentrations of LH in both males and females may reflect negative feedback inhibition imposed by elevated T and E2 concentrations. Despite the inherent postweaning fast, concentrations of T and E2 increased, suggesting that they may be critical for the continued development of pups. Therefore, compensatory mechanisms may exist that alleviate the fasting-induced inhibition of gonadal steroidogenesis during neonatal development in elephant seal pups.