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SUMMARY

Sperm competition is a post-copulatory, sexual selection force that, together with phylogeny and fertilization mode, has been regarded as one of the main factors explaining the diversity in sperm size across species. This universal sperm selection mechanism favors traits that enhance a male's fertilizing ability and paternity success. Surprisingly, however, sperm characteristics and semen quality in monogamous species, with low risk of sperm competition, have barely received any attention. In this review, we consider sperm competition and monogamy as two ends of the selective spectrum, and discuss its effect on sperm structure and function. We address the issue of a lack of sperm competition by comparing sperm traits of essentially monogamous species—their largely degenerative sperm features and high degree of polymorphisms could be norms for monogamous species. Further, the level of sperm competition in humans is discussed by comparing its mating strategy, relative testis size, and sperm traits to other primate species. In terms of sperm concentration, sperm swimming speed, and sperm morphology, humans seem to be closer aligned to the low-risk sperm competition situation in gorillas than to promiscuous chimpanzees. Mol. Reprod. Dev. 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.