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Reduced egg laying caused by a male accessory gland product opens the possibility for sexual conflict in a simultaneous hermaphrodite

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Promiscuity, sperm storage and internal fertilization enhance sperm competition, which leads to sexual conflict whenever an advantageous trait for sperm donors is harmful to recipients. In separate-sex species, such conflicts can severely impact the evolution of reproductive characteristics, physiology and behaviours. For simultaneous hermaphrodites, the generality of this impact remains unclear and underlying mechanisms remain largely unexplored. In the hermaphrodite Lymnaea stagnalis several previous studies showed that investment in eggs differs depending on semen receipt, but these were inconsistent about the direction of change. We investigated whether the change in egg laying is caused by a seminal fluid component. By intravaginally injecting animals, we here reveal that a component of the seminal fluid inhibits egg laying, thus providing the first direct evidence for involvement of such components in competition for fertilization in hermaphrodites. We discuss the broad implications that this finding has on a number of previous studies performed in the same species.

Affiliations: 1: Animal Ecology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, VU University, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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