Data from: Delineating the roles of males and females in sperm competition

  • Jon Evans (Creator)
  • Patrice Rosengrave (Creator)
  • Clelia Gasparini (Creator)
  • Neil John Gemmell (Creator)



Disentangling the relative roles of males, females and their interactive effects on competitive fertilization success remains a challenge in sperm competition. In this study, we apply a novel experimental framework to an ideally suited externally fertilizing model system in order to delineate these roles. We focus on the chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, a species in which ovarian fluid (OF) has been implicated as a potential arbiter of cryptic female choice for genetically compatible mates. We evaluated this predicted sexually selected function of OF using a series of factorial competitive fertilization trials. Our design involved a series of 10 factorial crosses, each involving two ‘focal’ rival males whose sperm competed against those from a single ‘standardized’ (non-focal) rival for a genetically uniform set of eggs in the presence of OF from two focal females. This design enabled us to attribute variation in competitive fertilization success among focal males, females (OF) and their interacting effects, while controlling for variation attributable to differences in the sperm competitive ability of rival males, and male-by-female genotypic interactions. Using this experimental framework, we found that variation in sperm competitiveness could be attributed exclusively to differences in the sperm competitive ability of focal males, a conclusion supported by subsequent analyses revealing that variation in sperm swimming velocity predicts paternity success. Together, these findings provide evidence that variation in paternity success can be attributed to intrinsic differences in the sperm competitive ability of rival males, and reveal that sperm swimming velocity is a key target of sexual selection.
Date made available25 Oct 2013
Geographical coverageNew Zealand


  • Genetic compatibility
  • Interacting phenotypes
  • Polyandry
  • Multiple mating
  • Oncorhynchus tshawytscha

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