Indirect parental effects on offspring viability by egg-derived fluids in an external fertilizer

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The capacity for parents to influence offspring phenotypes via nongenetic inheritance is currently a major area of focus in evolutionary biology. Intriguing recent evidence suggests that sexual interactions among males and females, both before and during mating, are important mediators of such effects. Sexual interactions typically extend beyond gamete release, involving both sperm and eggs, and their associated fluids. However, the potential for gamete-level interactions to induce nongenetic parental effects remains under-investigated. Here, we test for such effects using an emerging model system for studying gamete interactions, the external fertilizer Mytilus galloprovincialis. We employed a split-ejaculate design to test whether exposing sperm to egg-derived chemicals (ECs) from a female would affect fertilization rate and offspring viability when those sperm were used to fertilize a different female's eggs. We found separate, significant effects of ECs from non-fertilizing females on both fertilization rate and offspring viability. The offspring viability effect indicates that EC-driven interactions can have nongenetic implications for offspring fitness independent of the genotypes inherited by those offspring. These findings provide a rare test of indirect parental effects driven exclusively by gamete-level interactions, and to our knowledge the first evidence that such effects occur via the gametic fluids of females.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20202538
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London: series B
Issue number1940
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2020


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