Evolution, 65: 746-756
A key question in sexual selection is whether the ability of males to fertilize eggs under sperm competition exhibits heritable genetic variation. Addressing this question poses a significant problem, however, because a male’s ability to win fertilizations ultimately depends on the competitive ability of rival males. Attempts to partition genetic variance in sperm competitiveness, as estimated from measures of fertilization success, must therefore account for stochastic effects due to the random sampling of rival sperm competitors. In this contribution, we suggest a practical solution to this problem. We advocate the use of simple crossclassified breeding designs for partitioning sources of genetic variance in sperm competitiveness and fertilization success and show how these designs can be used to avoid stochastic effects due to the random sampling of rival sperm competitors. We illustrate the utility of these approaches by simulating various scenarios for estimating genetic parameters in sperm competiveness, and show that the probability of detecting additive genetic variance in this trait is restored when stochastic effects due to the random sampling of rival sperm competitors are controlled. Our findings have important implications for the study of the evolutionary maintenance of polyandry.