Sperm viability matters in insect sperm competition

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    Abstract

    Experimental studies in insects have shown how sperm competition can be a potent selective force acting on an array of male reproductive traits [1-4]. However, the role of sperm quality in determining paternity in insects has been neglected, despite the fact that sperm quality has been shown to influence the outcome of sperm competition in vertebrates [5-8]. A recent comparative analysis found that males of polyandrous insect species show a higher proportion of live sperm in their stores [9]. Here, we test the hypothesis that sperm viability influences paternity at the within-species level. We use the cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus to conduct sperm competition trials involving prescreened males that differ in the viability of their sperm. We find that paternity success is determined by the proportion of live sperm in a male's ejaculate. Furthermore, we were able to predict the paternity patterns observed on the basis of the males' relative representation of viable sperm in the female's sperm-storage organ. Our findings provide the first experimental evidence for the theory that sperm competition selects for higher sperm quality in insects. Between-male variation in sperm quality needs to be considered in theoretical and experimental studies of insect sperm competition.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)271-275
    JournalCurrent Biology
    Volume15
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

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