Experimental manipulation of sexual selection promotes greater male mating capacity but does not alter sperm investment.

Research paper by Helen S HS Crudgington, Sarah S Fellows, Nichola S NS Badcock, Rhonda R RR Snook

Indexed on: 25 Feb '09Published on: 25 Feb '09Published in: Evolution


Sexual selection theory makes clear predictions regarding male spermatogenic investment. To test these predictions we used experimental sexual selection in Drosophila pseudoobscura, a sperm heteromorphic species in which males produce both fertile and sterile sperm, the latter of which may function in postmating competition. Specifically, we determined whether the number and size of both sperm types, as well as relative testis mass and accessory gland size, increased with increased sperm competition risk and whether any fitness benefits could accrue from such changes. We found no effect of sexual selection history on either the number or size of either sperm morph, or on relative testis mass. However, males experiencing a greater opportunity for sexual selection evolved the largest accessory glands, had the greatest mating capacity, and sired the most progeny. These findings suggest that sterile sperm are not direct targets of sexual selection and that accessory gland size, rather than testis mass, appears to be an important determinant of male reproductive success. We briefly review the data from experimental sexual selection studies and find that testis mass may not be a frequent target of postcopulatory sexual selection and, even when it is, the resulting changes do not always improve fitness.