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Why mammalian lineages respond differently to sexual selection: Metabolic rate constrains the evolution of sperm size

AutorGomendio, Montserrat ; Tourmente, Maximiliano ; Roldán, Eduardo R. S.
Palabras claveSperm competition
Sexual selection
Evolutionary rates
Metabolic rate
Fecha de publicación9-mar-2011
EditorRoyal Society (Great Britain)
CitaciónProceedings of the Royal Society of London - B 278(1721): 3135-3141 (2011)
ResumenThe hypothesis that sperm competition should favour increases in sperm size, because it results in faster swimming speeds, has received support from studies on many taxa, but remains contentious for mammals. We suggest that this may be because mammalian lineages respond differently to sexual selection, owing to major differences in body size, which are associated with differences in mass-specific metabolic rate. Recent evidence suggests that cellular metabolic rate also scales with body size, so that small mammals have cells that process energy and resources from the environment at a faster rate. We develop the 'metabolic rate constraint hypothesis' which proposes that low mass-specific metabolic rate among large mammals may limit their ability to respond to sexual selection by increasing sperm size, while this constraint does not exist among small mammals. Here we show that among rodents, which have high mass-specific metabolic rates, sperm size increases under sperm competition, reaching the longest sperm sizes found in eutherian mammals. By contrast, mammalian lineages with large body sizes have small sperm, and while metabolic rate (corrected for body size) influences sperm size, sperm competition levels do not. When all eutherian mammals are analysed jointly, our results suggest that as mass-specific metabolic rate increases, so does maximum sperm size. In addition, species with low mass-specific metabolic rates produce uniformly small sperm, while species with high mass-specific metabolic rates produce a wide range of sperm sizes. These findings support the hypothesis that mass-specific metabolic rates determine the budget available for sperm production: at high levels, sperm size increases in response to sexual selection, while low levels constrain the ability to respond to sexual selection by increasing sperm size. Thus, adaptive and costly traits, such as sperm size, may only evolve under sexual selection when metabolic rate does not constrain cellular budgets. © 2011 The Royal Society.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0275
issn: 0962-8452
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