Scientists report for the first time that a snail’s seminal fluid proteins can suppress the mating success of the male side of its hermaphroditic partner.
by Rina Shaikh-Lesko
Although copulation is often brief, males of many animal species leave a lasting impression on their mates. The seminal fluid they deposit contains not just sperm, but proteins that can alter the physiology and behavior of the female, often in ways that hurt the paternal success of her subsequent mates.
Among hermaphrodites—animals with both male and female reproductive organs—mates themselves are potential competitors, too, and copulation gives seminal fluid proteins the unique opportunity to directly manipulate the recipient’s male as well as female function.
Ovipostatin, a seminal fluid protein (SFP) in the hermaphroditic freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis, cuts egg production in half in the sperm recipient, according to a 2010 study led by Joris Koene of VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
It’s been theorized that SFPs might also affect the sperm-producing capacity of recipient snails—their maleness—to reduce competition within a population. “It had been predicted … more than 30 years ago, but no one had properly tested it,” says Koene…
(read more: The Scientist)
illustration: © Scott Leighton