UNH scientists find faster way to count animal sperm using DNA

July 17, 2020

DURHAM, N.H.-- Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have identified a quicker and less expensive way to count sperm in lobsters that could help scientists looking at any animal better understand mating, a key aspect of species survival.

"Scientists used to have to do this using a very tedious or expensive method so it was rarely attempted," said Win Watson, professor emeritus of marine biology. "Now that DNA technology has become so accessible and affordable, we decided to try it and it worked great."

The technique is described in their study which was recently featured in the . Researchers outlined how they were looking to better understand how climate change may alter lobster reproduction by influencing the amount of sperm a male lobster could produce. The challenge they encountered was counting the number of sperm contained in the lobster's spermatophore -- the package of sperm a male lobster transfers to females during mating. Each spermatophore contains about two million sperm cells, so counting them under a microscope is too time-consuming, especially when processing numerous samples. The new DNA method they developed allowed them to determine whether male lobsters experienced declining numbers of sperm when they mated successively, leading to sperm limitation within the population.

"Imagine if it took a week to produce a complete lobster spermatophore. That would mean that male lobsters might only be able to mate once a week," said Watson. "That, in turn, might mean that some female lobsters that might be ready to mate, would not get the chance. Females only mate after they molt, which they do only once per year, and they all tend to do it around the same time. So, limited availability of male sperm could significantly impact the population."

The absence of cost-effective ways to measure lobster sperm meant that testing the sperm limitation hypothesis were rarely attempted, despite concerns about the sustainability of the American lobster population.

"Beforehand, if we wanted to look at questions of reproductive output in lobsters, it took labor-intensive methods and an incredible amount of time," says Ben Gutzler, a recent PhD graduate from UNH in Marine Biology and lead author. "This new DNA method will hopefully make it possible for a broader group of scientists to ask more relevant questions about more animals."

Although the researchers did not find evidence of sperm limitation among male lobsters, they did uncover inconsistent sperm production among the individual lobsters studied. For example, they found that lobsters with severe shell disease, which is very common in southern New England, packaged fewer sperm cells in each spermatophore. This could have implications for population sustainability and prompt further study.
-end-
The

University of New Hampshire

Related Scientists Articles from Brightsurf:

Every COVID-19 case seems different; these scientists want to know why
As scientists around the world develop life-saving COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, many are still wondering exactly why the disease proves deadly in some people and mild in others.A new international study led by scientists at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), The University of Liverpool and the University of Southampton is the first to give a detailed snapshot of how the body's CD4+ T cells respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Scientists can see the bias in your brain
The strength of alpha brain waves reveals if you are about to make a biased decision, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.

Scientists have found longevity biomarkers
An international group of scientists studied the effects of 17 different lifespan-extending interventions on gene activity in mice and discovered genetic biomarkers of longevity.

Coaching scientists to play well together
When scientists from different disciplines collaborate -- as is increasingly necessary to confront the complexity of challenging research problems -- interpersonal tussles often arise.

Scientists proposed a novel configuration of nanoscopes
TPU scientists proposed using special diffraction gratings with gold plates instead of microlenses to accelerate the generation of images from nanoscopes without losing any magnification power.

Children grow in a different way, scientists demonstrate
An international group of scientists under the supervision of a staff member of Sechenov University (Russia) and Karolinska Institute (Sweden) found out that earlier views on the mechanisms that provide and regulate skeletal growth were wrong.

'Doing science,' rather than 'being scientists,' more encouraging to girls
Asking young girls to 'do science' leads them to show greater persistence in science activities than does asking them to 'be scientists,' finds a new psychology study by researchers at New York University and Princeton University.

Encouraging scientists to collaborate on the tropics
'The changing nature of collaboration in tropical ecology and conservation,' recently published in Biotropica, investigates collaboration among scientists, researchers, and other figures whose work advances the field of tropical ecology.

Scientists penalized by motherhood
Despite gender balance at lower levels of academia, challenges still exist for women progressing to more senior roles.

Read More: Scientists News and Scientists Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.