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Sperm competition, Sexual selection, Sneaker, Mating system


Sperm competition is prevalent and intense in many animal mating systems, and is a major force driving evolution of such mating systems. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of seminal plasma on sperm velocity of male Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha), which possesses a mating system with male alternative reproductive tactics and intense sperm competition. Male Chinook salmon either adopt a small, precocious sneaking tactic (jack) or a large, dominant tactic (hooknose). To test whether the seminal plasma can effect sperm velocity amongst sperm competitors, two experiments were done whereby males were paired based upon the alternative tactic each male adopted, with the first experiment consisting of jack-hooknose pairs (N = 16) and the second experiment consisting of jack-jack and hooknose-hooknose pairs (N = 12 and 14, respectively). Within each pair, milt of each male was manipulated such that seminal plasma was removed and swapped between the males in each pair and sperm velocity was measured. Jack seminal plasma caused a significant decrease (∼11.9%) in hooknose sperm velocity while causing a significant increase in jack sperm velocity (∼7%), while alternatively, hooknose seminal plasma had no affect on sperm velocity of jack or other hooknose males. This study shows that rival seminal plasma may affect the outcome of sperm competition between males; males adopting a sneaking tactic, that spawn in a disadvantageous mating position, may be able to compensate for this deficit by being more competitive through the effects of their seminal plasma on their competitor's sperm velocity.

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