Differential Sperm Priming by Male Sailfin Mollies (Poecilia latipinna): Effects of Female and Male Size


Andrea S. Aspbury, Department of Biology, Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, TX 78666-4615, USA. E-mail: aspbury@txstate.edu


Recent interest in sperm competition has led to a re-evaluation of the ‘cheap sperm’ assumption inherent in many studies of sexual selection. In particular, mounting evidence suggests that male sperm availability can be increased by the presence of females. However, there is little information on how this interacts with male traits presumably affected by female mate choice, such as larger size. This study examines the effects on male sperm availability of female presence, male body size, and female body size in the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna. Individual males of variable body sizes were isolated in divided tanks for 3 d, after which time either a female or no female was added to the other side of the tank. Prior to the treatments, larger males had more stripped sperm than smaller males. Female presence significantly increased the amount of sperm males primed, but this effect was strongest in small males. Furthermore, males showed a greater priming response in the presence of larger females than in the presence of smaller females. These results demonstrate that the presence of sexually mature females increases the amount of sperm males have for insemination. Furthermore, traits that indicate female fecundity may be used by males as cues in male mate choice.