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Data from: Salinity-induced phenotypic plasticity in threespine stickleback sperm activation


Taugbøl, Annette et al. (2017), Data from: Salinity-induced phenotypic plasticity in threespine stickleback sperm activation, Dryad, Dataset,


Phenotypic expression may be and often is influenced by an organism’s developmental environment, referred to as phenotypic plasticity. The sperm cells of teleosts have been found to be inactive in the seminal plasma and are activated by osmotic shock for most fish species, through release in either hypertonic (for marine fish) or hypotonic (for freshwater fish) water. If this is the case, the regulatory system of sperm mobility should be reversed in salt and freshwater fish. We tested this hypothesis by first activating sperm of saltwater and freshwater populations of threespine stickleback in salt- and fresh water. The sperm from saltwater stickleback could be activated in either salinity, which matches the freshwater colonization history of the species, whereas the sperm from the freshwater population acted as predicted by the osmotic shock theory and was activated in freshwater only. As the freshwater population used here was calculated to be thousands of years old, we went on to test whether the trait(s) were plastic and sperm from freshwater males still could be activated in saltwater after individuals were exposed to saltwater. After raising freshwater stickleback in saltwater we found the mature males to have active sperm in both salt and freshwater. Further, we also found the sperm of wild-caught freshwater stickleback to be active in saltwater after exposing those mature males to saltwater for only two days. This illustrates that the ability for stickleback sperm to be activated in a range of water qualities is an environmentally induced plastic trait.

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