Assessing the potential for post-ejaculatory female choice in a polyandrous beach-spawning fish

Dara N. Orbach, Anna C. Rooke, Jonathan P. Evans, Trevor E. Pitcher, Craig F. Purchase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In species with limited opportunities for pre-ejaculatory sexual selection (behavioural components), post-ejaculatory mechanisms may provide opportunities for mate choice after gametes have been released. Recent evidence from a range of taxa has revealed that cryptic female choice (i.e., female-mediated differential fertilization bias), through chemical cues released with or from eggs, can differentially regulate the swimming characteristics of sperm from various males and ultimately determine male fertilization success under sperm competition. We assessed the potential role that such female-modulated chemical cues play in influencing sperm swimming characteristics in beach-spawning capelin (Mallotus villosus), an externally fertilizing fish that mates as couples (one male and one female) or threesomes (two males and one female) with presumably limited opportunities for pre-ejaculatory sexual selection. We assayed sperm swimming characteristics under varying doses and donor origins of egg cues and also examined the possibility of assortative mating based on body size. We found mating groups were not associated by size, larger males did not produce better quality ejaculates, and egg cues (regardless of dosage or donor identity) did not influence sperm swimming characteristics. Our findings suggest that intersexual pre-ejaculatory sexual selection and cryptic female choice mediated by female chemical cues are poorly developed in capelin, possibly due to unique natural selection constraints on reproduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-459
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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