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Keywords:

  • experimental evolution;
  • inbreeding;
  • Mus domesticus;
  • polyandry;
  • postcopulatory sexual selection;
  • sperm quality

Abstract

Sperm show a remarkable degree of variation in size, shape and complexity. Murine rodents exhibit a sperm head morphology that differs greatly from the ovoid shape that is characteristic of most mammals. These rodents have sperm that bear one or more apical hooks, the function of which is currently surrounded by much controversy. It has been suggested that the hook serves to facilitate the formation of sperm groups, which in some species exhibit relatively faster velocities than single cells and thus, may provide an advantage when ejaculates are competing for fertilisations. In support of this hypothesis, a comparative study reported a positive association between the strength of sperm competition (estimated from testes size) and the curvature of the sperm hook amongst 37 murine species. Here, we assessed whether sperm competition influences sperm hookedness at the intra-specific level. Following 16 generations of selection, we used geometric morphometry (GM) to describe sperm head morphology in selection lines of house mice evolving with (polygamous) and without (monogamous) sperm competition. Although the GM analysis returned two relative warps that described variation in the curvature of the sperm hook, we found no evidence of divergence between the selection lines. Thus, we can conclude that sperm competition does not influence the degree of sperm hookedness in house mice.