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Increased sperm production linked to competition in the maternal social environment

Citation

Hobson, Liane; Hurst, Jane; Stockley, Paula (2020), Increased sperm production linked to competition in the maternal social environment, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.547d7wm53

Abstract

Maternal or early life effects may prepare offspring for similar social conditions to those experienced by their mothers. For males, the ability to achieve mating and fertilisation success is a key social challenge. Competitive conditions may therefore favour increased body size or ejaculate production in male offspring. We tested this experimentally by comparing reproductive traits of adult male bank voles (Myodes glareolus), whose mothers had experienced contrasting encounter regimes with female conspecifics while breeding. We found that daily sperm production rates and epididymis mass were significantly higher when dams had experienced more frequent encounters with female conspecifics. This response to maternal and early life experience was specific to sperm production and storage, with no evidence for effects on male body mass or the size of testes and accessory reproductive glands. Our findings reveal a potentially adaptive effect of maternal and early-life experience on the development of sperm production, which is worthy of wider investigation.

Funding

Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/1013008/1