The relationship between body mass and relative investment in testes mass in cetaceans: Implications for inferring interspecific variations in the extent of sperm competition

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Abstract

Based on sperm competition theory, percentage testes mass (% of total body mass) has been used to infer variations in the extent of sperm competition within mating systems of cetaceans. However, in most amniote taxa, including mammals, there is an underlying negative relationship between body mass and relative investment in testes mass, which must first be taken into account. Here, I identify a very strong nonlinear, negative relationship between body mass in cetaceans and relative investment in testes mass based on data from 31 species. As a result, if percentage testes mass alone is used to infer the relative extent of sperm competition in cetaceans, its importance in mating systems of smaller species is likely to be overestimated, whereas its role in larger species is likely to be underestimated. Similarly, there will also be systematic biases if this relationship is assumed to be linear when it is not. Therefore, it is essential that the underlying, nonlinear body mass–testes mass relationship is correctly taken into account when using relative investment in testes mass to estimate the relative levels of sperm competition in cetaceans. This is particularly important if such inferences are used to inform conservation strategies for endangered cetacean species.

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