Research Group Space

Sperm morphology

Publications filtered by: Sperm morphology

A father effect explains sex-ratio bias
Malo, A. F., Martinez-Pastor, F., Garcia-Gonzalez, F., Garde, J., Ballou, J. D. & Lacy, R. C. 2017 A father effect explains sex-ratio bias Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 284: 20171159

Sex ratio allocation has important fitness consequences, and theory predicts that parents should adjust offspring sex ratio in cases where the fitness returns of producing male and female offspring vary. The ability of fathers to bias offspring sex ratios has traditionally been dismissed given the expectation of an equal proportion of X- and Y-chromosome-bearing sperm (CBS) in ejaculates due to segregation of sex chromosomes at meiosis. This expectation has been recently refuted. Here we used Peromyscus leucopus to demonstrate that sex ratio is explained by an exclusive effect of the father, and suggest a likely mechanism by which male-driven sex-ratio bias is attained. We identified a male sperm morphological marker that is associated with the mechanism leading to sex ratio bias; differences among males in the sperm nucleus area (a proxy for the sex chromosome that the sperm contains) explain 22% variation in litter sex ratio. We further show the role played by the sperm nucleus area as a mediator in the relationship between individual genetic variation and sex-ratio bias. Fathers with high levels of genetic variation had ejaculates with a higher proportion of sperm with small nuclei area. This, in turn, led to siring a higher proportion of sons (25% increase in sons per 0.1 decrease in the inbreeding coefficient). Our results reveal a plausible mechanism underlying unexplored male-driven sex-ratio biases. We also discuss why this pattern of paternal bias can be adaptive. This research puts to rest the idea that father contribution to sex ratio variation should be disregarded in vertebrates, and will stimulate research on evolutionary constraints to sex ratios—for example, whether fathers and mothers have divergent, coinciding, or neutral sex allocation interests. Finally, these results offer a potential explanation for those intriguing cases in which there are sex ratio biases, such as in humans.

Linking sperm length and velocity: the importance of intramale variation
Fitzpatrick, J. L., Garcia-Gonzalez, F. & Evans, J. P. 2010 Linking sperm length and velocity: the importance of intramale variation Biology Letters, 6: 797-799
Selection imposed through sperm competition is commonly thought to promote the evolution of longer sperm, since sperm length is assumed to be positively associated with sperm swimming velocity. Yet, the basis for this assumption remains controversial, and there is surprisingly little intraspecific evidence demonstrating such a link between sperm form and function. Here, we show that sperm length and velocity are highly correlated in the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma, but importantly we report that failure to account for within-male variation in these sperm traits can obscure this relationship. These findings, in conjunction with the mounting evidence for extremely high levels of intraspecific variance in sperm traits, suggest that a functional link between sperm morphology and velocity may be more prevalent than what current evidence suggests. Our findings also suggest that selection for faster swimming sperm may promote the evolution of longer sperm, thereby supporting recent findings from macroevolutionary studies.
Shorter sperm confer higher competitive fertilization success
Garcia-Gonzalez, F. & Simmons, L. W. 2007 Shorter sperm confer higher competitive fertilization success Evolution, 61: 816-824

Spermatozoa exhibit taxonomically widespread patterns of divergent morphological evolution. However, the adaptive significance of variation in sperm morphology remains unclear. In this study we examine the role of natural variation in sperm length on fertilization success in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus. We conducted sperm competition trials between males that differed in the length of their sperm and determined the paternity of resulting offspring using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. We also quantified variation in the size and shape of the female’s sperm storage organ to determine whether female morphology influenced the competitiveness of different sperm morphologies. We found that fertilization success was biased toward males with relatively shorter sperm, but that selection on sperm length was dependent on female tract morphology; selection was directional for reduced sperm length across most of the spermathecal size range, but stabilizing in females with the smallest spermathecae. Our data provide empirical support for the theory that sperm competition should favor the evolution of numerous tiny sperm. Moreover, because sperm length is both heritable and genetically correlated with condition, our results are consistent with a process by which females can accrue genetic benefits for their offspring from the incitement of sperm competition and/or cryptic female choice, as proposed by the “sexy sperm” and “good sperm” models for the evolution of polyandry.

Variation in paternity in the field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus: no influence of sperm numbers or sperm length
Simmons, L.W.; Wernham, J.; Garcia-Gonzalez, F. & Kamien, D. 2002 Variation in paternity in the field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus: no influence of sperm numbers or sperm length Behavioral Ecology, 14: 539-545
Recent attention has focused on the role that sperm competition may play in the evolution of sperm morphology. Theoretical analyses predict increased sperm size, decreased sperm size, and no change in sperm size in response to sperm competition, depending on the assumptions made concerning the life history and function of sperm. However, although there is good evidence that sperm morphology varies widely within and between species, the adaptive significance of this variation has not been examined. Here we document significant intraspecific variation in sperm length in the field cricket, Teleogryllus oceanicus. Sperm length did not influence the rate of migration of sperm from the spermatophore to the female’s spermatheca. We performed sperm competition trials in which we varied the numbers of sperm transferred by each of two males that differed in the length of sperm they produced. Neither sperm length nor the number of sperm transferred influenced paternity. The same results were obtained using two different methods for assigning paternity. The distribution of paternity across a female’s mates was highly variable, with frequently one, or more in the case of females mated to four males, principal sire. There were no mating order effects on paternity. These data show that sperm do not mix randomly in the female’s spermatheca. We discuss several alternative explanations for the patterns of paternity observed.