Brooding fathers, not siblings, take up nutrients from embryos

Gry Sagebakken, Ingrid Ahnesjo, Kenyon Mobley, Ines Braga Goncalves, Charlotta Kvarnemo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is well known that many animals with placenta-like structures provide their embryos with nutrients and oxygen. However, we demonstrate here that nutrients can pass the other way, from embryos to the parent. The study was done on a pipefish, Syngnathus typhle, in which males brood fertilized eggs in a brood pouch for several weeks. Earlier research has found a reduction of embryo numbers during the brooding period, but the fate of the nutrients from these 'reduced' embryos has been unknown. In this study, we considered whether (i) the brooding male absorbs the nutrients, (ii) siblings absorb them, or (iii) a combination of both. Males were mated to two sets of females, one of which had radioactively labelled eggs (using (14)C-labelled amino acids), such that approximately half the eggs in the brood pouch were labelled. This allowed us to trace nutrient uptake from these embryos. We detected that (14)C-labelled amino acids were transferred to the male brood pouch, liver and muscle tissue. However, we did not detect any significant (14)C-labelled amino-acid absorption by the non-labelled half-siblings in the brood pouch. Thus, we show, to our knowledge, for the first time, that males absorb nutrients derived from embryos through their paternal brood pouch.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)971-977
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume277
Issue number1683
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2010

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