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Sperm-limited fecundity and polyandry-induced mortality in female nematodes Caenorhabditis remanei


Current address: School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK. E-mail:


In many sexually reproducing species, females are sperm limited and actively mate more than once which can lead to sperm competition between males. However, the costs and benefits of multiple matings may differ for males and females leading to different optimal mating frequencies and consequent sexual conflict. Under these circumstances, male traits that reduce females' re-mating rates are likely to evolve. However, the same traits can also reduce, directly or indirectly, female survival and/or manipulate female fecundity. Evidence of this sexual conflict is common across several taxa. Here, we examine the evidence for this form of conflict in the free-living nematodes of the Caenorhabditis genus. Members of this group are extensively used to describe developmental and physiological processes. Despite this, we understand little about the evolution of selfing, maintenance of males and sexual conflict in these species, particularly those with gonochoristic mating strategies. In this study, we demonstrate experimentally sexual conflict in the gonochoristic of C. remanei cultured under laboratory conditions. In our first experiment, we found that female fecundity increased with the number of males present which suggests that females' reproduction may be sperm limited. However, increasing the number of males present also reduced female survival. A second experiment ruled out the alternative explanation of density-dependent reduction in female survival when more males were present as increasing female density correspondingly did not affect female survival. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2010, 99, 362–369.