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Omega-3 Improves Paternity Success

Scientists have long known that omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids can help to prevent heart disease, but new research has found that they can also increase the chance of paternity success.

Prof Jon Evans of The University of Western Australia’s Centre for Evolutionary Biology conducted controlled artificial insemination experiments with the guppy Poecilia reticulata, a promiscuous live-bearing fish whose sperm face fierce competition to achieve fertilisation.

The study, published in Biology Letters, found that male guppies fed diets with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids sired a significantly higher proportion of offspring when competing against sperm from males fed nutritionally impaired diets.

Evans said the result might have broad implications among a variety of species where omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a number of traits linked to reproduction.

“There is already speculation that the global decline in the production of omega-3 fatty acids by marine phytoplankton, which is the world’s primary source of these essential fatty acids, may have important implications for animal health,” Evans said.

“Any further decline could see a trend towards impaired diets in modern animals, including humans. This, in turn, may impact health, fertility, and ultimately influence future population and community dynamics.”

The study concluded that further investigation is required to determine the effects in other species and the possible implications for patterns of sexual selection in affected populations.