Postmating sexual conflict and female control over fertilization during gamete interaction

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    Males and females rarely have identical evolutionary interests over reproduction, and when the fitness of both sexes is dependent upon paternity outcomes, sexual conflict over fertilization is inevitable. In internal fertilizers, the female tract is a formidable selective force on the number and integrity of sperm that reach the egg. Selection on sperm quality is intensified when females mate multiply and rival males are forced to compete for fertilizations. While male adaptations to sperm competition have been well documented (e.g., increased sperm fertilizing capacity), much less attention has been given to the evolutionary consequences of postmating sexual conflict for egg form and function. Specifically, increased sperm competitiveness can be detrimental by giving rise to an elevation in reproductive failure resulting from polyspermy. Spanning literature on both internal and external fertilizers, in this review I discuss how females respond to sperm competition via fertilization barriers that mediate sperm entry. These findings, which align directly with sexual conflict theory, indicate that females have greater control over fertilization than has previously been appreciated. I then consider the implications of gametic sexual conflict in relation to the development of reproductive isolation and speculate on potential mechanisms accounting for “egg defensiveness.” Finally, I discuss the functional significance of egg defensiveness for both the sexes, and sperm selection for females.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)48-64
    Number of pages17
    JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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