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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Sep 22;270(1527):1933-8.

Superior sperm competitors sire higher-quality young.

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Zoology Museum, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, Zürich 8057, Switzerland.


The evolution of polyandry remains controversial. This is because, unlike males, in many cases multiple mating by females does not increase fecundity and inevitably involves some costs. As a result, a large number of indirect benefit models have been proposed to explain polyandry. One of these, the good sperm hypothesis, posits that high-quality males are better sperm competitors and sire higher-quality offspring. Hence, by mating multiply, females produce offspring of superior quality. Despite being potentially widely applicable across species, this idea has received little attention. In a laboratory experiment with yellow dung flies ( Scathophaga stercoraria ) we found that males that were more successful in sperm competition also had offspring that developed faster. There was no relationship between paternal success in sperm competition and the ability of offspring to survive post-emergence starvation. Since faster development times are likely to be advantageous in this species, our data provide some support for polyandry evolving as a means of producing higher-quality offspring via sperm competition.

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