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Journal of Evolutionary Biology





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cryptic female choice, major histocompatibility complex, post-copulatory, relatedness, spawning, sperm competition


In many species, sperm velocity affects variation in the outcome of male competitive fertilization success. In fishes, ovarian fluid (OF) released with the eggs can increase male sperm velocity and potentially facilitate cryptic female choice for males of specific phenotypes and/or genotypes. Therefore, to investigate the effect of OF on fertilization success, we measured sperm velocity and conducted in vitro competitive fertilizations with paired Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) males representing two alternative reproductive tactics, jacks (small sneaker males) and hooknoses (large guarding males), in the presence of river water alone and OF mixed with river water. To determine the effect of genetic differences on fertilization success, we genotyped fish at neutral (microsatellites) and functional [major histocompatibility complex (MHC) II ß1] markers. We found that when sperm were competed in river water, jacks sired significantly more offspring than hooknoses; however, in OF, there was no difference in paternity between the tactics. Sperm velocity was significantly correlated with paternity success in river water, but not in ovarian fluid. Paternity success in OF, but not in river water alone, was correlated with genetic relatedness between male and female, where males that were less related to the female attained greater paternity. We found no relationship between MHC II ß1 divergence between mates and paternity success in water or OF. Our results indicate that OF can influence the outcome of sperm competition in Chinook salmon, where OF provides both male tactics with fertilization opportunities, which may in part explain what maintains both tactics in nature.

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