Damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera) have a more complex sperm transfer system than other internally ejaculating insects. Males translocate sperm from the internal reproductive organs to the specific sperm vesicles, a small cavity on the body surface, and then transfer them into the female. To examine how the additional steps of sperm transfer contribute to decreases in sperm quality, we assessed sperm viability (the proportion of live sperm) at each stage of mating and after different storage times in male and female reproductive organs in two damselfly species, Mnais pruinosa and Calopteryx cornelia. Viability of stored sperm in females was lower than that of male stores even just after copulation. Male sperm vesicles were not equipped to maintain sperm quality for longer periods than the internal reproductive organs. However, the sperm vesicles were only used for short-term storage; therefore, this process appeared unlikely to reduce sperm viability when transferred to the female. Males remove rival sperm prior to transfer of their own ejaculate using a peculiar-shaped aedeagus, but sperm removal by males is not always complete. Thus, dilution occurs between newly received sperm and aged sperm already stored in the female, causing lower viability of sperm inside the female than that of sperm transferred by males. If females do not remate, sperm viability gradually decreases with the duration of storage. Frequent mating of females may therefore contribute to the maintenance of high sperm quality.
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