Reproductive investment patterns, sperm characteristics, and seminal plasma physiology in alternative reproductive tactics of Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)


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Although alternative reproductive tactics (ARTs) are common across a range of taxa, little is known about whether the different tactics have adapted to sperm competition risk. Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, have two ARTs: large males that participate in dominance-based hierarchies for access to spawning females, known as hooknoses, and small males that attempt to sneak fertilizations during spawning events from peripheral positions, known as jacks. Jacks continually face sperm competition risk because they always spawn in the presence of another male, whereas hooknoses face relatively low sperm competition risk because other males are not always present during spawning events. Based on the sneak-guard model of sperm competition this asymmetry in sperm competition risk predicts that jacks ought to invest significantly more into sperm-related traits important for sperm competition success relative to hooknoses. In the present study we report on reproductive investment patterns, sperm characteristics, and seminal plasma physiology of males that exhibit ARTs in Chinook salmon. We found that jacks invest significantly more of their somatic tissue into gonads compared with hooknoses. Sperm velocity also varied significantly between the ARTs, with jacks having significantly faster sperm than hooknoses. No significant differences in seminal plasma physiology metrics related to sperm quality were detected between the ARTs. We interpret these sperm investment patterns in light of the sneak-guard model of sperm competition that is based on differences in sperm competition risk and alternative investment possibilities among ARTs. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ••, ••–••.