Large and persistent effect of a female steroid pheromone on ejaculate size in goldfish Carassius auratus


*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed at present address: Department of Biology, Brandon University, Brandon, MB, R7A 6A9 Canada. Tel.: +1 204 727 9680; fax: +1 204 728 7346; email:


This study determined if ejaculate size in male goldfish Carassius auratus is increased by the female preovulatory steroid pheromone 4-pregnen-17,20β-diol-3-one (17,20βP), which previously has been shown to affect male behaviour and to increase sperm motility and stripped sperm number, and also to increase paternity in competitive spawning and competitive in vitro fertilization. Experimental males were exposed overnight to 17,20βP whereas control males were not. The morning following exposure, each male was placed with a reproductively active female and, after one to 20 spawning acts, aquarium water was sampled to quantify released sperm. Although exposure to 17,20βP induced a five-fold difference in the number of sperm that could be stripped, the median number of sperm in first ejaculates of pheromone-exposed males was >60 sixty times that of control males, a pheromonal effect on ejaculate size that persisted for at least 20 spawning acts. The magnitude of the pheromone effect on ejaculate size indicates that it is a critical component of C. auratus sperm allocation, and that examining this effect in concert with other factors (e.g. presence of competitors, male and female size and frequency of spawning) will reveal the contribution of the preovulatory pheromone to male fitness in this promiscuous species.