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Sperm-duct gland content increases sperm velocity in the sand goby

Journal article
Authors Leon Green
Charlotta Kvarnemo
Published in Biology Open
Volume 8
Publication year 2019
Published at Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CEMEB)
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Keywords Accessory glands, Adaptations, Ejaculate components, Fertilization, Reproduction, Spermatozoa
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Zoology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology


Sperm performance is often tightly linked to male reproductive success. In many demersal gobiid fishes, the male attaches sperm embedded in a mucus produced by sperm-duct glands to the nest substrate before spawning takes place. Sperm are activated as the mucus and embedded gland content dissolve into the water. To test the importance of gland content on sperm function in Pomatoschistus minutus, a marine fish with external fertilization, we used a paired experimental design, with spermatozoa tested with and without sperm-duct gland content mixed into seawater. We measured sperm velocity, percentage of motile sperm and sperm viability over time. Sperm were found to swim 7.3% faster when gland content was mixed in the seawater. Percentage motile sperm was unaffected by the gland content. Sperm viability in seawater exceeded 24 h, but was unaffected by the gland content. An increase in sperm velocity of similar magnitude as found here has been shown by others to increase fertilization success. Since velocity-boosting properties of sperm-duct gland content have now been found in three distantly related goby species, this trait appears to be conserved across the Gobiidae family and may aid in reproduction across a range of species and environments.

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