Offspring phenotype is shaped by the non-sperm fraction of semen
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ViittausKekäläinen, Jukka (University of Eastern Finland). Jokiniemi, Annalaura (University of Eastern Finland). Janhunen, Matti (Natural Resources Institute Finland). Huuskonen, Hannu (University of Eastern Finland). , Offspring phenotype is shaped by the non-sperm fraction of semen, 2020, doi:10.5061/dryad.6m905qfwc.
In a large majority of animal species, the only contribution of males to the next generation has been assumed to be their genes (sperm). However, along with sperm, seminal plasma contains a wide array of extracellular factors that have many important functions in reproduction. Yet, the potential intergenerational effects of these factors are virtually unknown. We investigated these effects in European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) by experimentally manipulating the presence and identity of seminal plasma and by fertilizing the eggs of multiple females with the manipulated and unmanipulated semen of several males in a full-factorial breeding design. Presence of both own and foreign seminal plasma inhibited sperm motility and removal of own seminal plasma decreased embryo survival. Embryos hatched significantly earlier after both semen manipulations than in control fertilizations; foreign seminal plasma also increased offspring aerobic swimming performance. Given that our experimental design allowed us to control potentially confounding sperm-mediated (sire) effects and maternal effects, our results indicate that seminal plasma may have direct intergenerational consequences for offspring phenotype and performance. This novel source of offspring phenotypic variance may provide new insights into the evolution of polyandry and mechanisms that maintain heritable variation in fitness and associated female mating preferences.