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Keywords:

  • Antioxidants;
  • fertility;
  • infertility;
  • male fertility;
  • oxidative stress;
  • reactive oxygen species;
  • reproductive success;
  • sexual selection;
  • sperm;
  • sperm competition

Ecology letters (2011) 14: 891–895

Abstract

Sperm are particularly prone to oxidative damage because they generate reactive oxygen species (ROS), have a high polyunsaturated fat content and a reduced capacity to repair DNA damage. The dietary compounds vitamin E and beta-carotene are argued to have antioxidant properties that help to counter the damaging effects of excess ROS. Here in, we tested the post-copulatory consequences for male crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus) of dietary intake of these two candidate antioxidants. During competitive fertilisation trials, vitamin E, but not beta-carotene, singularly enhanced sperm competitiveness. However, the diet combining a high vitamin E dose and beta-carotene produced males with the most competitive ejaculates, possibly due to the known ability of beta-carotene to recycle vitamin E. Our results provide support for the idea that these two common dietary compounds have interactive antioxidant properties in vivo, by affecting the outcomes of male reproductive success under competitive conditions.