Thermal reaction norms in sperm performance of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua)

Craig F. Purchase, Ian A. E. Butts, Alexandre Alonso-Fernandez, Edward A. Trippel

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Phenotypic plasticity occurs when a genotype produces variable phenotypes under different environments; the shapes of such responses are known as norms of reaction. The genetic scale at which reaction norms can be determined is restricted by the experimental unit that can be exposed to variable environments. This has limited their description beyond the family level in higher organisms, thus hindering our understanding of differences in plasticity at the scale of the individual. Using a three-year common-garden experiment, we quantify reaction norms in sperm performance of individual genotypes within different families of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Cod sperm showed phenotypic plasticity in swimming performance across temperatures (3, 6, 11. and 21 degrees C), but the pattern of the response depended upon how long sperm had been swimming (30, 60, 120, or 180 s), i.e., plasticity in plasticity. Sperm generally swam fastest at intermediate temperatures when first assessed at 30 s after activation. However, a significant genotype x environment interaction was present, indicating inter-individual differences in phenotypic plasticity. To our knowledge, this is the first study to describe variable sperm performance across environmental conditions as a reaction norm. The results have potential theoretical, conservation, and aquaculture implications.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)498-510
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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