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Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Oct 7;276(1672):3467-75. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0807. Epub 2009 Jul 8.

Sperm: seminal fluid interactions and the adjustment of sperm quality in relation to female attractiveness.

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Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


An important predictor of male fitness is the fertilizing efficiency of their ejaculates. Ejaculates are costly to produce and males are predicted to devote greater resources to copulations with reproductively superior females. It is well established that males allocate different numbers of sperm to ejaculates. However, less is known about how males adjust their sperm quality, which has important implications for our understanding of fertilization and the evolution of sexual strategies. Here we test in the fowl, Gallus gallus, whether males adjust their sperm velocity by differentially allocating seminal fluid to copulations with attractive and unattractive females. To disentangle the contributions of sperm and seminal fluid to sperm velocity, we separated and remixed sperm and seminal fluid from ejaculates allocated to females of different attractiveness. We show that dominant males increase the velocity of the sperm they invest in more attractive females by allocating larger ejaculates that contain seminal fluid that increases sperm velocity. Furthermore, we find weak evidence that males also allocate sperm with higher velocity, irrespective of seminal fluid, to more attractive females.

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