Paternal environment effects are driven by female reproductive fluid but not sperm age in an external fertiliser



Sperm ageing after ejaculation can generate paternal environmental effects that impact offspring fitness. In many species, female reproductive fluids (FRFs), i.e. ancillary fluids released by eggs or within the female reproductive tract, may protect sperm from ageing and can additionally interact with sperm to influence offspring viability. This raises the intriguing prospect that FRFs may alleviate paternal effects associated with sperm ageing. Here, we test this novel hypothesis using the broadcast spawning mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis. We show that incubating sperm in FRF prior to fertilisation increases offspring viability and that these effects occur independently of sperm age. Our results provide novel evidence that FRFs allow females to selectively bias fertilisation toward higher quality sperm within an ejaculate, which in turn yields more viable offspring. We consider this FRF-mediated paternal effect in the context of female physiological control over fertilisation and the transgenerational effects of female-regulated haploid selection.
Date made available24 Oct 2023

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