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Am Nat. 2007 Aug;170(2):190-5. Epub 2007 Jun 5.

Male crickets adjust the viability of their sperm in response to female mating status.

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  • 1Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia.


Sperm competition theory predicts that males should allocate sperm according to the number of competing ejaculates. Prudent allocation of sperm in response to different levels of sperm competition has been found across a number of taxa; however, some studies suggest that males may not always allocate sperm as expected. Here we examine sperm allocation in the Australian field cricket Teleogryllus oceanicus, using female mating status (virgin, singly mated, or multiply mated) to manipulate male perception of sperm competition risk and intensity. Consistent with theory, we found that male crickets adjust their ejaculates in response to female mating status. However, rather than altering the absolute numbers of sperm transferred to a female, males altered the quality of their sperm. Males ejaculated sperm of low viability (proportion of live vs. dead sperm) when mating with virgins, increased sperm viability when mating with singly mated females, but reduced sperm viability when mating with multiply mated females. Our results show that variation in ejaculate quality can be an important aspect of strategic ejaculation by males and suggest caution in the interpretation of studies in which males do not appear to allocate sperm according to theory.

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