Fertilization is not a new beginning: the relationship between sperm longevity and offspring performance

Authors: Angela J Crean, John M Dwyer and Dustin J Marshall

Published in: PLoS ONE, volume 7, issue 11, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049167

Abstract

Styela plicata larvae

Styela plicata larvae. Image courtesy of Bronwyn Galletly.

Sperm are the most diverse cell type known: varying not only among- and within- species, but also among- and within- ejaculates of a single male.

Recently, the causes and consequences of variability in sperm phenotypes have received much attention, but the importance of within-ejaculate variability remains largely unknown.

Correlative evidence suggests that reduced within-ejaculate variation in sperm phenotype increases a male’s fertilization success in competitive conditions; but the transgenerational consequences of within-ejaculate variation in sperm phenotype remain relatively unexplored.

Here we examine the relationship between sperm longevity and offspring performance in a marine invertebrate with external fertilization, Styela plicata. Offspring sired by longer-lived sperm had higher performance compared to offspring sired by freshly-extracted sperm of the same ejaculate, both in the laboratory and the field. This indicates that within-ejaculate differences in sperm longevity can influence offspring fitness – a source of variability in offspring phenotypes that has not previously been considered. Links between sperm phenotype and offspring performance may constrain responses to selection on either sperm or offspring traits, with broad ecological and evolutionary implications.

Full paper

Crean AJ, Dwyer JM, Marshall DJ (2012) Fertilization is not a new beginning: the relationship between sperm longevity and offspring performance. PLoS ONE 7 (11) PDFPDF 254 KB External linkFull text, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049167