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Anim Reprod Sci. 2009 Aug;114(1-3):269-78. doi: 10.1016/j.anireprosci.2008.09.013. Epub 2008 Oct 1.

Testis size, sperm characteristics and testosterone concentrations in four species of shrews (Mammalia, Soricidae).

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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


The aim of this study was to establish and compare the sperm characteristics in four shrew species in the context of the sperm competition hypothesis. As expected, the large relative testis size in promiscuous species was associated with a high number of cauda epididymal spermatozoa and a high concentration of circulating testosterone. In addition, in Sorex and Neomys, species with high intensity of sperm competition, the spermatozoa stored in cauda epididymis were characterized by high percentage of progressive motility whereas in Crocidura and Suncus, the cauda epididymal spermatozoa were motile but with very low percentage of progressive motility. This capability is achieved only following the passage through the vas gland, a specialized region for sperm storage located along the vas deferens in these shrew species. The hypothesis that sperm competition is positively correlated with spermatozoa length could not be confirmed. In Crocidura and Suncus, the total sperm length is increased by the large sperm head due to a big acrosome. This trait, specific to the subfamily Crocidurinae, may results from a selective pressure independent of the context of sperm competition, related to a specific, but as yet unclear role, for the acrosome during the fertilization.

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