Modification of sperm quality after sexual abstinence in the Seba's short tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata)
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Journal of Experimental Biology
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In polygynous mating systems, few males have stable access to sexual mates. With an expected higher copulation rate, harem males may deplete seminal fluids or increase epididymal sperm maturation, generating poor sperm quality. In a first study, we reported a higher sperm quality in sneaker males of Carollia perspicillata. To test whether the lower sperm quality observed in harem males was generated by an elevated copulation rate, we temporarily removed males of both social statuses from the colony. We thus assessed status-related changes of sperm quality resulting from sexual abstinence. Moreover, released from territory and female guarding, harem males were expected to show a reduction in somatic costs. On the basis of sperm competition models, we predicted a higher resource investment in the ejaculate with the reduction of pre-copulatory efforts. In line with our predictions, sperm quality of harem males improved significantly in contrast to sneaker males, whose sperm quality did not change. Without an increase in ejaculate lipid peroxidation, our results also provide evidence that the duration of sexual abstinence was not sufficient to generate sperm oxidative damage through senescence. Harem males did not show a reduction in blood lipid peroxidation or in the ratio of oxidized to reduced glutathione. In line with the maintenance of these somatic costs, harem males did not invest more superoxide dismutase to the ejaculate to maintain sperm quality. Our results suggest that a difference in copulation rate rather than an adaptation to sperm competition provides sneaker males with higher sperm quality in C. perspicillata.
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