Ejaculate economics: Testing the effects of male sexual history on the trade-off between sperm and immune function in Australian crickets

Damian K Dowling, Leigh Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Trade-offs between investment into male sexual traits and immune function provide the foundation for some of the most prominent models of sexual selection. Post-copulatory sexual selection on the male ejaculate is intense, and therefore trade-offs should occur between investment into the ejaculate and the immune system. Examples of such trade-offs exist, including that between sperm quality and immunity in the Australian cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. Here, we explore the dynamics of this trade-off, examining the effects that increased levels of sexual interaction have on the viability of a male s sperm across time, and the concomitant effects on immune function. Males were assigned to a treatment, whereby they cohabited with females that were sexually immature, sexually mature but incapable of copulation, or sexually mature and capable of copulation. Sperm viability of each male was then assessed at two time points: six and 13 days into the treatment, and immune function at day 13. Sperm viability decreased across the time points, but only for males exposed to treatment classes involving sexually mature females. This decrease was similar in magnitude across both sexually mature classes, indicating that costs to the expression of high sperm viability are incurred largely through levels of pre-copulatory investment. Males exposed to immature females produced sperm of low viability at both time points. Although we confirmed a weak negative association between sperm viability and lytic activity (a measure of immune response to bacterial infection) at day 13, this relationship was not altered across the mating treatment. Our results highlight that sperm viability is a labile trait, costly to produce, and subject to strategic allocation in these crickets.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30172
Number of pages6
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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