Despite serving the primary objective of ensuring that at least one sperm cell reaches and fertilises an ovum, the male ejaculate (i.e. spermatozoa and seminal fluid) is a compositionally complex ‘trait’ that can respond phenotypically to subtle changes in conditions. In particular, recent research has shown that environmentally and genetically induced changes to ejaculates can have implications for offspring traits that are independent of the DNA sequence encoded into the sperm’s haploid genome. In this review, we compile evidence from several disciplines and numerous taxonomic systems to reveal the extent of such ejaculate-mediated paternal effects (EMPEs). We consider a number of environmental and genetic factors that have been shown to impact offspring phenotypes via ejaculates, and where possible, we highlight the putative mechanistic pathways by which ejaculates can act as conduits for paternal effects. We also highlight how females themselves can influence EMPEs, and in some cases, how maternally derived sources of variance may confound attempts to test for EMPEs. Finally, we consider a range of putative evolutionary implications of EMPEs and suggest a number of potentially useful approaches for exploring these further. Overall, our review confirms that EMPEs are both widespread and varied in their effects, although studies reporting their evolutionary effects are still in their infancy.
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Jonathan P Evans, Alastair J Wilson, Andrea Pilastro, and Francisco Garcia-Gonzalez
Lucinda C Aulsebrook, Michael G Bertram, Jake M Martin, Anne E Aulsebrook, Tomas Brodin, Jonathan P Evans, Matthew D Hall, Moira K O’Bryan, Andrew J Pask, Charles R Tyler, and Bob B M Wong
Environmental pollution is an increasing problem for wildlife globally. Animals are confronted with many different forms of pollution, including chemicals, light, noise, and heat, and these can disrupt critical biological processes such as reproduction. Impacts on reproductive processes can dramatically reduce the number and quality of offspring produced by exposed individuals, and this can have further repercussions on the ecology and evolution of affected populations. Here, we illustrate how environmental pollutants can affect various components of reproduction in wildlife, including direct impacts on reproductive physiology and development, consequences for gamete quality and function, as well as effects on sexual communication, sexual selection, and parental care. We follow with a discussion of the broader ecological and evolutionary consequences of these effects on reproduction and suggest future directions that may enable us to better understand and address the effects of environmental pollution.