Sperm performance under hypoxic conditions in the intertidal fish Porichthys notatus

Fitzpatrick, John L.; Craig, Paul M.; Bucking, Carol; Balshine, Sigal; Wood, Chris M.; McClelland, Grant B.
May 2009
Canadian Journal of Zoology;May2009, Vol. 87 Issue 5, p464
Academic Journal
Hypoxia (low oxygen) exposure generally leads to decreased reproductive capacity, exhibited by reductions in testicular mass, reproductive hormones, and sperm swimming speed. However, in many fish species, reproduction occurs either periodically or exclusively under hypoxic conditions. In this study we assessed how hypoxia influences sperm performance in the plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus Girard, 1854), a species that lives in intertidal nests that become hypoxic during low tides. We exposed sperm from the same male to normoxic or hypoxic conditions and compared sperm characteristics and oxygen consumption between treatments. Sperm exposed to hypoxic water swam faster and consumed more oxygen than sperm swimming in normoxic conditions. Sperm swimming speed was positively related with oxygen consumption. For each male, the percentage of motile spermatozoa did not differ between treatments, suggesting that the same number of sperm were active but their performance was dependent on the dissolved oxygen content in the water. We discuss the implications of our results in the context of sperm competition and fertilization success under hypoxic conditions.


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