COMPLEX PATTERNS OF MULTIVARIATE SELECTION ON THE EJACULATE OF A BROADCAST SPAWNING MARINE INVERTEBRATE

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Abstract

Assessing how selection operates on several, potentially interacting, components of the ejaculate is a challenging endeavor. Ejaculates can be subject to natural and/or sexual selection, which can impose both linear (directional) and nonlinear (stabilizing, disruptive, and correlational) selection on different ejaculate components. Most previous studies have examined linear selection of ejaculate components and, consequently, we know very little about patterns of nonlinear selection on the ejaculate. Even less is known about how selection acts on the ejaculate as a functionally integrated unit, despite evidence of covariance among ejaculate components. Here, we assess how selection acts on multiple ejaculate components simultaneously in the broadcast spawning sessile invertebrate Mytilus galloprovincialis using the statistical tools of multivariate selection analyses. Our analyses of relative fertilization rates revealed complex patterns of selection on sperm velocity, motility, and morphology. Interestingly, the most successful ejaculates were made up of slower swimming sperm with relatively low percentages of motile cells, and sperm with smaller head volumes that swam in highly pronounced curved swimming trajectories. These results are consistent with an emerging body of literature on fertilization kinetics in broadcast spawners, and shed light on the fundamental nature of selection acting on the ejaculate as a functionally integrated unit.

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