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J Exp Biol. 2018 Jul 30;221(Pt 14). pii: jeb175976. doi: 10.1242/jeb.175976.

Seminal fluid enhances competitiveness of territorial males' sperm in a fish with alternative male reproductive tactics.

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Department of Biology, University of Padova, Via U. Bassi 58/b, 35121 Padova, Italy
Department of Biology, University of Padova, Via U. Bassi 58/b, 35121 Padova, Italy.


The most common adaptation to sperm competition in males is represented by an increase in the sperm number and/or quality released at mating, to raise their probability of egg fertilization. However, rapidly mounting evidence highlights that seminal fluid may directly influence the competitive fertilization success of a male by affecting either own and/or rival sperm performance. In the black goby, Gobius niger, an external fertilizer with guard-sneaker mating tactics and high sperm competition level, sneaker ejaculates contain less seminal fluid and more sperm, that are also of better quality, than those of territorial males. However, territorial males gain a higher paternity success inside natural nests. Here, we ask whether the seminal fluid can contribute to the reproductive success of territorial males by enhancing their sperm performance and/or by decreasing that of sneaker males. Using sperm and seminal fluid manipulation and in vitro fertilization tests, we found that own seminal fluid influences the velocity and fertilization ability of sperm only in territorial males, making them as fast as those of sneakers and with a similar fertilization rate. Moreover, both sneaker and territorial sperm remain unaffected by the seminal fluid of rival males. Thus, black goby males respond to the different level of sperm competition faced by differential allocation of sperm and non-sperm components of the ejaculate, with sneakers primarily investing in sperm of intrinsic high quality and territorial males relying on the effect of seminal fluid to increase the lower intrinsic quality of their sperm.


Alternative reproductive tactics; Ejaculates interaction; Seminal fluid; Sperm competition

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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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