New publication: Experimental heatwaves negatively impact sperm quality in the zebra finch

By Laura L. Hurley, Callum S. McDiarmid, Christopher R. Friesen, Simon C. Griffith, Melissah Rowe* in Proc. R. Soc. B.


For sexually reproducing species, functionally competent sperm are critical to reproduction. While high atmospheric temperatures are known to influence the timing of breeding, incubation and reproductive success in birds, the effect of temperature on sperm quality remains largely unexplored. Here, we experimentally investigated the impact of ecologically relevant extreme temperatures on cloacal temperature and sperm morphology and motility in zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata. We periodically sampled males exposed to 30°C or 40°C temperatures daily for 14 consecutive days. Following a 12-day (23°C) recovery period, birds were again exposed to heat, but under the alternate treatment (e.g. birds initially exposed to 40°C were exposed to 30°C). Elevated temperatures led to an increase in cloacal temperature and a reduction in the proportion of sperm with normal morphology; these effects were most notable under 40°C conditions, and were influenced by the duration of heat exposure and prior exposure to high temperature. Our findings highlight the potential role of temperature in determining male fertility in birds, and perhaps also in constraining the timing of avian breeding. Given the increased frequency of heatwaves in a warming world, our results suggest the need for further work on climatic influences on sperm quality and male fertility.

Published 17 January 2018
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2547
Publication webpage.

* Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
See the publication webpage for full author information

Tags: Proc. R. Soc. B\;
Published Mar. 27, 2018 2:13 PM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2019 9:48 AM