Sperm competition and sperm midpiece size: no consistent pattern in passerine birds
Immler, S.; Birkhead, T.R.
Proceedings. Biological Sciences 274(1609): 561-568
Sperm competition is thought to be a major force driving the evolution of sperm shape and function. However, previous studies investigating the relationship between the risk of sperm competition and sperm morphometry revealed inconclusive results and marked differences between taxonomic groups. In a comparative study of two families of passerines (Fringillidae and Sylviidae) and also across species belonging to different passerine families, we investigated the relative importance of the phylogenetic background on the relationship between sperm morphometry and the risk of sperm competition. The risk of sperm competition was inferred from relative testis mass as an indicator of investment in sperm production. We found: (i) a significant positive association between both midpiece length and flagellum length and relative testis mass in the Fringillidae, (ii) a significant negative association between sperm trait dimensions and relative testis mass in the Sylviidae, and (iii) no association across all species. Despite the striking difference in the patterns shown by the Sylviidae and the Fringillidae, the relationship between midpiece length and flagellum length was positive in both families and across all species with positive allometry. Reasons for the differences and similarities between passerine families are discussed.