Most benthic invertebrates broadcast their gametes into the sea, whereupon successful fertilization relies on the complex interaction between the physics of the surrounding fluid flow and the biological properties and behavior of eggs and sperm. We present a holistic overview of the impact of instantaneous flow processes on fertilization across a range of scales. At large scales, transport and stirring by the flow control the distribution of gametes. Although mean dilution of gametes by turbulence is deleterious to fertilization, a variety of instantaneous flow phenomena can aggregate gametes before dilution occurs. We argue that these instantaneous flow processes are key to fertilization efficiency. At small scales, sperm motility and taxis enhance contact rates between sperm and chemoattractant-releasing eggs. We argue that sperm motility is a biological adaptation that replaces molecular diffusion in conventional mixing processes and enables gametes to bridge the gap that remains after aggregation by the flow.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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