Predation shapes sperm performance surfaces in guppies

Alessandro Devigili, Jonathan P. Evans, John L. Fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Sperm velocity is a key determinant of competitive fertilization success in many species. Selection is therefore expected to favour the evolution of faster sperm when the level of sperm competition is high. However, several aspects can determine the direction and strength of selection acting on this key performance trait, including ecological factors that influence both sperm competition and the strength of selection acting on correlated traits that may constrain evolutionary responses in sperm velocity. Here, we determine how a key ecological variable, the level of predation, shapes sperm swimming speed across 18 Trinidadian populations of guppies (Poecilia reticulata). We use performance analysis, a statistical tool akin to the familiar methods of multivariate selection analyses, to determine how the level of predation influences sperm velocity (modelled as a performance trait) when accounting for correlated pre- and postcopulatory traits that are also impacted by predation. We show that predation affects the combination of pre- and postcopulatory traits that ultimately predict sperm performance. Overall, we report evidence for disruptive relationships between sperm performance and combinations of ornaments and sperm morphology, but the specific combinations of traits that predict sperm velocity depended on the level of predation. These analyses underscore the complex nonlinear interrelationships among pre- and postcopulatory traits and the importance of considering ecological factors that may ultimately change the way in which multiple traits interact to determine a trait's performance value. As such, our results are likely to be broadly applicable across systems where selection is influenced by ecological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190869
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1905
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019


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