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Mounting evidence suggests that nongenetic paternal effects on offspring may be widespread among animal taxa, but the mechanisms underlying this form of nongenetic inheritance are not yet fully understood. Here, we show that seminal fluids underlie paternal effects on early offspring survival in an insect, the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus, and quantify the contribution of this paternal effect to the inheritance of this important fitness trait. We used castrated males within a full-sib half-sib experimental design to show that seminal fluid donors were responsible for variation in the survival of developing embryos to hatching, and in their subsequent survival to adulthood. Increased expression of two seminal fluid protein genes, previously found to be positively associated with sperm quality, was found to be negatively associated with embryo survival. These nongenetic paternal effects hold important implications for the evolution of adaptive maternal responses to sperm competition, and more broadly for the interpretation of sire effects from classic quantitative genetic breeding designs.
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