Differential sperm storage by female zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata
Hemmings, N.; Birkhead, T.
PROCEEDINGS. Biological Sciences 284(1860)
ISSN/ISBN: 1471-2954 PMID: 28814657 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1032
When females mate promiscuously, female sperm storage provides scope to bias the fertilization success towards particular males via the non-random acceptance and utilization of sperm. The difficulties observing post-copulatory processes within the female reproductive tract mean that the mechanisms underlying cryptic female choice remain poorly understood. Here, we use zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata, selected for divergent sperm lengths, combined with a novel technique for isolating and extracting sperm from avian sperm storage tubules (SSTs), to test the hypothesis that sperm from separate ejaculates are stored differentially by female birds. We show that sperm from different inseminations enter different SSTs in the female reproductive tract, resulting in almost complete segregation of the sperm of competing males. We propose that non-random acceptance of sperm into SSTs, reflected in this case by sperm phenotype, provides a mechanism by which long sperm enjoy enhanced fertilization success in zebra finches.