EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION OF SPERM QUALITY VIA POSTCOPULATORY SEXUAL SELECTION IN HOUSE MICE

Authors


Abstract

Individuals of many species copulate with multiple mates (polygamy). Multiple mating by females (polyandry) promotes sperm competition, which has broad implications for the evolution of the ejaculate. Multigenerational studies of polygamous insects have shown that the removal of sexual selection has profound fitness consequences for females, and can lead to an evolutionary divergence in ejaculate traits. However, the evolutionary implications of polygamous mating across successive generations have not before been demonstrated in a vertebrate. By manipulating the mating system we were able to reinstate postcopulatory sexual selection in a house mouse population that had a long history of enforced monogamy. Following eight generations of selection, we performed sperm quality assays on males from both the polygamous and monogamous selection lines. We applied a principal component analysis to summarize the variation among 12 correlated sperm traits, and found that males evolving under sperm competition had significantly larger scores on the first axis of variation, reflecting greater numbers of epididymal sperm and increased sperm motility, compared to males from lines under relaxed selection. Moreover, we found a correlated response in the size of litters born to females in lines subject to sperm competition. Thus, we present significant evidence that sperm competition has profound fitness consequences for both male and female house mice.

Ancillary