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Diversity in reproductive strategies in mediterranean blenniid fishes: the role of sperm competition

The Mediterranean coastline represents some of Europe' s most diverse and vulnerable habitat. Understanding the processes that generate and maintain this biodiversity is a major concern of biologists and conservationists. The shallow water fishes are an important component of this ecosystem and a model system to study this problem. Variation within species, particularly the occurrence of alternative reproductive strategies, is a fundamental aspect of biodiversity. Alternative strategies arise when mates are limiting and defendable ; some males invest in defending females , whereas others parastically exploit the territorial male's females through a process termed sperm competition. Sperm competition is a cryptic but persuasive force in the evolution of reproductive behaviour, physiology and morphology and is a critical determinant of genetic mixing. The Blenniid fishes are remarkably diverse in their reproductive biology and thus present an ideal system to test the hypothesis that sperm competition has been an important force in shaping this diversity. Our comparative study will relate behaviour, reproductive anatomy and physiology to sperm competiton. The study will quantify alternative strategies and sperm competition in the field and relate this to laboratory analyses of morphology and physiology. Specifically we will investigate how sperm competition relates to:
1) demography and ecology,
2) sperm traits and
3) testis physiology.

RGI - Research grants (individual fellowships)

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