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Lifelong Exposure to Dioxin-Like PCBs Alters Paternal Offspring Care Behavior and Reduces Male Fish Reproductive Success

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posted on 15.08.2019, 13:33 authored by David P. Coulter, Kara E. Huff Hartz, Maria S. Sepúlveda, Amy Godfrey, James E. Garvey, Michael J. Lydy
Offspring survival, cohort performance, and ultimately population dynamics are strongly influenced by maternal characteristics (e.g., fecundity), whereas paternal contribution is often considered limited to genetic-driven fitness of males through sexual selection. However, male contribution to reproductive success can be particularly influential in species exhibiting paternal offspring care. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are widespread, persistent contaminants that can disrupt maternal reproductive processes and negatively affect offspring. In contrast, how PCBs affect paternal reproductive success is largely unknown, but could ultimately affect population dynamics. We examined the effects of lifelong PCB exposure on the reproductive processes of male fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), a species exhibiting sole paternal offspring care, by examining endocrine-associated gene expression, testes histology, secondary sexual characteristics, courtship ability, offspring care, and offspring survival. PCBs minimized male secondary sexual characteristics, but did not affect gonadal end points or inhibit ability to court females. Fathers exposed to high concentrations of dioxin-like PCBs had changes in gene expression, reduced offspring care behavior, and higher embryo mortality, possibly due to fathers spending less time within nests and less frequently tending to embryos. Through complex interactions among gene expression, physical characteristics, and behavior, PCBs inhibit paternal reproductive success and have the potential to suppress population size.