Sperm characteristics associated with different male reproductive tactics in bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus)
We examined the availability and motility of sperm from parental and sneaker male bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus), a colonially nesting sunfish (Family Centrarchidae) with male parental care and a high incidence of cuckoldry by both sneaker and satellite males. We found no differences between sneakers and parentals in length and swimming speed of sperm, or percent and duration of sperm activity. In sneaker milt, however, sperm was almost 50% more concentrated than in parental milt (16.5×106 vs 11.5×106 sperm/µl of milt, respectively). Despite this difference in sperm concentration, stripped ejaculates from sneakers contained almost 400 million fewer sperm (only 32% as many sperm) than those from parentals due to their much smaller stripped ejaculate volumes (only about 19% that of parentals). Thus unless sneakers can compensate by releasing more sperm or gaining closer proximity to eggs at the time of spawning, they may be at a disadvantage with respect to sperm competition. We discuss these results in relation to models for the evolution of alternative reproductive behaviours in this species and suggest that the cuckolders may be making the best of a bad situation.
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