Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 521–533 | Cite as

Rapid evolution of sperm length in response to increased temperature in an ectothermic fish

  • Ross D. Breckels
  • Bryan D. Neff
Original Paper


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts an average global temperature increase of 1.8–4.0 °C by 2100. Tropical ectotherms are expected to be particularly sensitive to this temperature increase because they live close to their thermal limits. We investigated the phenotypic plasticity and evolutionary response of sperm traits in guppies (Poecilia reticulata) to increased temperatures after 6, 18, and 24 months. Guppies with evolution temperatures of 25 °C (control) or 28 °C were reared in either 25 or 28 °C in a 2 × 2 common garden design. The plastic response to increased temperature was a decreased sperm length, velocity, and path linearity. The evolutionary response was a subsequent increase in sperm length, resulting in complete compensation after just 6 months (at most four generations) in 28 °C water. Sperm velocity and linearity showed no sign of evolution even after 24 months. This study provides evidence that some reproductive traits can respond via rapid evolution to the temperature increase associated with climate change.


Phenotypic plasticity Genetic response Sperm length Sperm velocity Guppy Global warming 



We thank J. Hung and M. Lau for their help with conducting sperm video analyses and S. Garner, T. Hain, N. Muñoz, C. Partridge, and three anonymous reviewers for providing comment that improved the manuscript. This research was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Supplementary material

10682_2014_9692_MOESM1_ESM.docx (152 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 152 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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