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Predicting the mating system from phenotypic correlations between life-history and sperm quality traits in the Alpine whitefish Coregonus zugensis
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
The mating behavior and reproductive strategies of Alpine whitefish like Coregonus zugensis (Nusslin) are poorly understood, probably because they spawn in deep water where direct observations are difficult. In this study, we interpret life-history and sperm quality traits of fish that we caught from their spawning place. We found that males invest heavily into gonadal tissue (up to 5.6% of their body weight), which is, in comparison to other fish, consistent with external fertilization, distinct pairing and moderate to high communal spawning, or no pairing and low to moderate communal spawning. Sperm competition theory and recent experimental studies on other salmonids predict that males optimize ejaculate characteristics in relation to the costs of sperm and the level of competition they have to expect: dominant males are predicted to invest less into ejaculate quality and to have slower spermatozoa than subdominant males. We found that spermatozoa of older males are slower than those of younger males. Moreover, older males have larger breeding tubercles, a secondary sexual trait that has, in some previous studies, been found to be linked to good condition and to good genetic quality. Our results suggest that C. zugensis has age-linked reproductive strategies, that multimale spawning is common, i.e., that sperm competition plays a significant role, and that older males are on average dominant over younger males at the spawning place.
mating system, sperm competition, sperm velocity, male mating strategies, salmonids, good genes sexual selection
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