This study investigated two related aspects of male-female reproductive interactions in the family Cyprinidae: (1) whether ovulating female rudd Scardinius erythrophthalmus (subfamily Leuciscinae) induce endocrine and gonadal priming responses in conspecific males, a phenomenon which has been described only in species from the subfamily Cyprininae such as goldfish, Carassius auratus, crucian carp Carassius carassius and common carp, Cyprinus carpio and (2) whether the stimuli mediating these responses are species-specific. Field studies of three sympatric European cyprinids, two leuciscins (S. erythrophthalmus and white bream Blicca bjoerkna) and one cyprinin (C. carassius), were conducted on fishes captured in Sweden in the spawning season and held in net pens under natural conditions. As previously reported in C. carassius, male S. erythrophthalmus increased milt (sperm and seminal fluid) volume and plasma concentrations of the sperm maturation hormone 4-pregnen-17,20β-diol-3-one (17,20β-P) when they were held with female S. erythrophthalmus induced to ovulate by injection of Ovaprim (GnRH analogue plus dopamine antagonist). Male S. erythrophthalmus had larger milt volumes than male C. carassius prior to and following exposure to ovulatory conspecifics, but exhibited a smaller proportional milt increase in response to stimulation, suggesting species differences in sperm allocation at spawning. The presence of female S. erythrophthalmus and B. bjoerkna did not affect milt volumes of C. carassius under two experimental conditions: (1) ovulating S. erythrophthalmus and B. bjoerkna did not increase the milt volumes of C. carassius and (2) S. erythrophthalmus and B. bjoerkna did not interfere with the milt volume increase induced in male C. carassius by ovulating conspecifics. These results suggest that, as in C. auratus, C. carassius and C. carpio (subfamily Cyprininae), female S. erythrophthalmus (subfamily Leuciscinae) release a preovulatory pheromone that exerts priming effects on male hormones and sperm allocation. The findings also indicate that C. carassius discriminate between the reproductive odours of conspecifics and heterospecifics.
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