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Sperm Quantity Explains Age-Related Variation in Fertilization Success in the Hide Beetle


Dr Therésa M. Jones, Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 3010 Victoria, Australia.


Age-related variation in sperm quality and quantity may have a dramatic impact on female fecundity and fertilization success. Despite this, the relationships between these parameters are rarely investigated. Moreover, studies exploring age-related variation in male mating success generally fail to consider the entire lifespan of an individual male; instead they restrict analyses to a small number of defined age classes. As a consequence they are unable to assess the impact of early and late life history components on male reproductive success. In this study, we explore these questions using the hide beetle, Dermestes maculatus, a model species for investigating age-related male mating success. We first employed a longitudinal design to explore whether patterns of sperm transfer and subsequent reproductive success varied over the reproductive lives of a cohort of males. Secondly, we investigated age-related variation in sperm viability, a surrogate measure of sperm quality. Finally, we combined these data and assessed whether the observed patterns of sperm transfer were correlated with fertilization success. We found that the quantity of sperm varied with male age: the amount of sperm transferred to a female increased with male age until 9 wk and then started to decline. Similarly, female fecundity and fertilization success were related to male age: females mating with males when they were relatively young (1 wk) or relatively old (13 wk) suffered reductions in fecundity and fertilization. Our data suggest that fertilization success is driven at least in part by the quantity of sperm transferred during mating.