carotenoids, color polymorphism, competitive fertilization, cryptic female choice, ovarian fluid, sperm competition
Post-copulatory processes, including sperm competition and cryptic female choice (CFC), can play important roles in the maintenance of polymorphisms. In Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), color morphs (red and white) exist due to genetic polymorphisms affecting carotenoid deposition in flesh, skin, and gametes. We investigated the role of post-spawning sexual selection in maintaining the polymorphism in a mixed population. First, we compared sperm velocity differences in water between morphs. Next, we measured color-based CFC via 2 methods: 1) sperm velocity in ovarian fluid and 2) in vitro competitive fertilization using paired red and white males. We found that red males had marginally faster sperm relative to white males in water, suggesting that carotenoid storage may affect sperm performance. However, ovarian fluid of red and white females influenced sperm velocity of red and white males differently, indicative of color-based CFC on sperm velocity. Furthermore, we found evidence of color-based CFC on paternity success during in vitro competitive fertilizations; however, sperm velocity in ovarian fluid did not predict results found under in vitro fertilization. Instead, in our study, sperm velocity in water was a significant predictor of fertilization success. When we accounted for this difference in sperm velocity (in water) between paired males, we partitioned the amount of variation in fertilization success that was attributed to individual level CFC (male pair × female) and male competitiveness (male pair) as 43% and 16%, respectively. In conclusion, post-spawning sexual selection processes represent important mechanisms contributing to the maintenance of the color polymorphism in nature.
Lehnert, Sarah J.; Heath, Daniel D.; Devlin, Robert H.; and Pitcher, Trevor E.. (2017). Post-spawning sexual selection in red and white Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Behavioral Ecology, 28 (1), 1-10.
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