Long-term effect of yolk carotenoid levels on testis size in a precocial bird
© 2016 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. http://royalsocietypublishing.org/licence
Conditions experienced during prenatal development can have long-lasting organizational effects on offspring. Maternal carotenoids deposited in the eggs of birds and other oviparous species play an important role during fast embryonic growth and chick development through their antioxidant properties. However, the long-term consequences of variation in maternal carotenoid transfer for the offspring have seldom been considered. Since plasma carotenoid levels at adulthood are known to influence testis size and yolk carotenoid levels influence the ability to extract carotenoids later in life, we hypothesized that maternally transmitted carotenoids might influence gonad size at adulthood. Here, we showed that male Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) originating from a carotenoid-enriched egg had smaller testes than control individuals at adulthood. This result shows that yolk carotenoids have long-term organizational effects. In addition, given that carotenoid intake at sexual maturity increases sperm quality and that a decreased testis size is associated with a lower sperm production, we propose that carotenoid exposure during embryo development might influence a trade-off between ejaculate size and sperm quality.
The study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP00P3_128386 and PP00P3_157455) and the Fonds zur Förderung des akademischen Nachwuchses.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the Royal Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 12 (4), article 20160008
- Biosciences 
Place of publication