Sperm storage by males causes changes in sperm phenotype and influences the reproductive fitness of males and their sons

Clelia Gasparini, Ryan Dosselli, Jonathan P. Evans

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Abstract

Recent studies suggest that environmentally induced effects on sperm phenotype can influence offspring phenotype beyond the classic Mendelian inheritance mechanism. However, establishing whether such effects are conveyed purely through ejaculates, independently of maternal environmental effects, remains a significant challenge. Here, we assess whether environmentally induced effects on sperm phenotype affects male reproductive success and offspring fitness.We experimentally manipulated the duration of sperm storage by males, and thus sperm age, in the internally fertilizing fish Poecilia reticulata. We first confirm that sperm ageing influences sperm quality and consequently males reproductive success. Specifically, we show that aged sperm exhibit impaired velocity and are competitively inferior to fresh sperm when ejaculates compete to fertilize eggs. We then used homospermic (noncompetitive) artificial insemination to inseminate females with old or fresh sperm and found that male offspring arising from fertilizations by experimentally aged sperm suffered consistently impaired sperm quality when just sexually mature (four months old) and subsequently as adults (13 months old). Although we have yet to determine whether these effects have a genetic or epigenetic basis, our analyses provide evidence that environmentally induced variation in sperm phenotype constitutes an important source of variation in male reproductive fitness that has far reaching implications for offspring fitness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution Letters
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

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