Attractive males have faster sperm in three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus


Recent studies have revealed that sexually selected traits may signal sperm quality and hence male fertilisation ability. There is also evidence that the expression of male sexual ornamentation and associated sperm characteristics depend on an individual’s ability to cope with oxidative stress. Carotenoids are known for their antioxidant properties and carotenoid-based ornaments might represent honest signals as these pigments can be traded off between the investment in sexual ornamentation, sperm function as well as immune response. In this study, we examined the relationship between sexual ornamentation (breeding coloration) and sperm characteristics (e.g., velocity and morphology) in the three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, an externally fertilising fish species, in which sperm competition commonly occurs. During the breeding season males are sperm limited and develop a conspicuous carotenoid-based coloration, which is under strong pre-copulatory sexual selection due to female mate choice and male-male competition. The results of the present study show that the expression of stickleback male breeding coloration is significantly positively associated with the linearity of sperm movement, whereas sperm morphology (head length to tail length ratio) is significantly negatively related to the trajectory of sperm movement. Moreover, there is some support for the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis as the intensity of male red breeding coloration is significantly positively correlated with sperm velocity, which is supposed to be an important determinant of fertilisation success in external fertilisers, indicating the honesty of the sexually selected nuptial red coloration [Current Zoology 59 ( ): – , 2013].

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@inproceedings{Mehlis2013AttractiveMH, title={Attractive males have faster sperm in three-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus}, author={Marion Mehlis and Lukas K. HILKE and Theo C. M. Bakker}, year={2013} }