Sperm selection and genetic incompatibility: Does relatedness of mates affect male success in sperm competition?

  • Stockley P
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Sperm selection may be said to occur if females influence the relative success of ejaculates competing to fertilize their ova. Most evidence that female animals or their ova are capable of sperm selection relates to male genetic incompatibility, although relatively few studies focus on competition between conspecific males. Here I look for evidence of sperm selection with respect to relatedness of mates. Reduced fitness or inbreeding effects in offspring resulting from copulations between close relatives are well documented. If females are capable of sperm selection, they might therefore be expected to discriminate against the sperm of sibling males during sperm competition. I describe an experimental protocol designed to test for evidence of sperm selection while controlling for inbreeding effects. Using decorated field crickets (Gryllodes supplicans), I found that sibling males achieved lower fertilization success in competition with a male unrelated to the female than in competition with another sibling more frequently than expected by chance, although the mean paternity values did not differ significantly between treatments. The tendancy for sibling males to achieve relatively lower fertilization success in competition with males unrelated to the female could not be explained by the effects of increased ejaculate allocation, female control of sperm transfer or inbreeding. This study therefore provides some evidence in support of the idea that female insects (or their ova) may be capable of selection against sperm on the basis of genetic similarity of conspecific males.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Crickets
  • Cryptic female choice
  • Fertilization success
  • Gryllodes supplicans
  • Inbreeding

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  • P. Stockley

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