Evidence for widespread sperm displacement ability among Zygoptera (Odonata) and the means for predicting its presence



Males of the coenagrionid damselflies Argia moesta, A. sedula and hchnura ramburii use similar penis morphology to remove and/or reposition sperm of previous males from the storage organs of females prior to inseminating them. Although the species vary in the degree to which sperm is removed from or packed into the spermatheca, in all three species, sperm is removed from the bursa copulatrix. Since sperm in the bursa probably has priority in fertilizing eggs in at least the first oviposition after mating, sperm precedence can be estimated as the percentage of sperm (by volume) in the bursa belonging to the last male to mate. Estimated sperm precedence for these species is approximately 71% for Argia sedula, 82% for I. ramburii and 93% for A. moesta. These results, combined with similar ones for other damselflies clearly indicate that the ability to displace sperm may be widespread among temperate-zone Zygoptera. Species with each of the four major variations in damselfly penis structure have now been shown to displace sperm using this morphology. The systematic distribution of these major variants suggests several origins of sperm displacement ability within the Zygoptera. Whether or not all damselflies are capable of sperm displacement depends on both the presence of micro-structures used in sperm removal or repositioning and on the presence of sperm of previous males in mating females. It is possible, therefore, to predict that sperm displacement occurs in a damselfly if (1) females mate more than once, (2) mating females store sperm in organs accessible to penis morphology, (3) the distal segment of the male penis has structures similar to those known to be involved in sperm removal or repositioning, and (4) oviposition occurs in tandem or with the male non-contact guarding his mate.