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No evidence of trade-offs in the evolution of sperm numbers and sperm size in mammals

AuthorsTourmente, Maximiliano ; Delbarco-Trillo, Javier; Roldán, Eduardo R. S.
Issue Date6-Aug-2015
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
European Society of Evolutionary Biology
CitationJournal of Evolutionary Biology 28(10): 1816-1827 (2015)
Abstract© 2015 European Society For Evolutionary Biology. Post-copulatory sexual selection, in the form sperm competition, has influenced the evolution of several male reproductive traits. However, theory predicts that sperm competition would lead to trade-offs between numbers and size of spermatozoa because increased costs per cell would result in a reduction of sperm number if both traits share the same energetic budget. Theoretical models have proposed that, in large animals, increased sperm size would have minimal fitness advantage compared with increased sperm numbers. Thus, sperm numbers would evolve more rapidly than sperm size under sperm competition pressure. We tested in mammals whether sperm competition maximizes sperm numbers and size, and whether there is a trade-off between these traits. Our results showed that sperm competition maximizes sperm numbers in eutherian and metatherian mammals. There was no evidence of a trade-off between sperm numbers and sperm size in any of the two mammalian clades as we did not observe any significant relationship between sperm numbers and sperm size once the effect of sperm competition was taken into account. Maximization of both numbers and size in mammals may occur because each trait is crucial at different stages in sperm's life; for example size-determined sperm velocity is a key determinant of fertilization success. In addition, numbers and size may also be influenced by diverse energetic budgets required at different stages of sperm formation.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/jeb.12698
e-issn: 1420-9101
issn: 1010-061X
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