Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 289–310 | Cite as

Complexity of seminal fluid: a review

  • Aldo PoianiEmail author


The seminal fluid is a complex medium containing a great variety of molecules, mainly produced by sex accessory glands, and also cells other than spermatozoa (e.g. leucocytes). In this paper, I review current knowledge on composition of seminal fluid in both vertebrates (mainly mammals) and invertebrates (mainly insects) with internal fertilisation, in the light of possible benefits of seminal fluid components to males (e.g. sperm capacitation, sperm competition and fertilisation), possible costs to males (e.g. autoimmunity, antigenic effects), potential benefits to females being inseminated (e.g. food, immunostimulation and antibiotic effects) and potential costs to females (e.g. transmission of venereal diseases). The diversity of microorganismal, cellular and molecular components of seminal fluids can be interpreted in the light of emergence of co-adapted complexes, host–parasite coevolution, male–female arms races, sperm competition, pleiotropy and redundancy of function.


Seminal fluid Accessory glands Fertilisation Immunity Sperm competition Sexually transmitted diseases 



I am grateful to P. Heeb and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive suggestions. The preparation of this review benefitted from a grant of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering of La Trobe University.


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© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Science, Technology and EngineeringLa Trobe UniversityMilduraAustralia

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