The impact of diet quality on the velocity, morphology and normality of sperm in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata

Callum S. McDiarmid*, Laura L. Hurley, Madiline Le Mesurier, Andrew C. Blunsden, Simon C. Griffith

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)
    25 Downloads (Pure)


    Sperm traits can influence fertilisation success, but there is still much we do not understand about sperm condition dependence, that is, how much sperm traits depend on the male's energy acquisition and allocation. This is especially pronounced in avian taxa, despite extensive observational studies and sampling in wild populations. In this study, we collected sperm samples before and after experimentally reducing diet quality of wild-derived captive zebra finches in small mixed-sex groups, which we compared with individuals on a control diet. We measured the length of sperm components (head, midpiece, flagellum and total sperm length), the proportion of sperm with normal morphology, the proportion of sperm that were progressively motile and sperm swimming velocity (curvilinear velocity; VCL). The only sperm trait we found to be impacted by reduced diet quality was a significant decrease in sperm midpiece length. This is consistent with emerging evidence in other non-model systems, as well the fact that diet can alter mitochondrial density and structure in other tissue types. There was also a significant decrease in sperm velocity and the proportion of motile sperm over the course of the experiment for both experimental groups (i.e. unrelated to diet). This decrease in sperm velocity with largely unchanged sperm morphology emphasizes that there are other important determinants of sperm velocity, likely including seminal fluid composition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberjeb243715
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
    Issue number9
    Early online date9 May 2022
    Publication statusPublished - May 2022

    Bibliographical note

    Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Condition dependence
    • Ejaculate
    • Sperm
    • Sperm motility
    • Zebra finch


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