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Keywords:

  • Fertilization;
  • sperm competition;
  • sperm dimensions;
  • sperm swimming velocity

Sperm competition often leads to increase in sperm numbers and sperm quality, and its effects on sperm function are now beginning to emerge. Rapid swimming speeds are crucial for mammalian spermatozoa, because they need to overcome physical barriers in the female tract, reach the ovum, and generate force to penetrate its vestments. Faster velocities associate with high sperm competition levels in many taxa and may be due to increases in sperm dimensions, but they may also relate to higher adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content. We examined if variation in sperm ATP levels relates to both sperm competition and sperm swimming speed in rodents. We found that sperm competition associates with variations in sperm ATP content and sperm-size adjusted ATP concentrations, which suggests proportionally higher ATP content in response to sperm competition. Moreover, both measures were associated with sperm swimming velocities. Our findings thus support the idea that sperm competition may select for higher ATP content leading to faster sperm swimming velocity.