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Am Nat. 2011 Sep;178(3):343-54. doi: 10.1086/661244.

The risk and intensity of sperm ejection in female birds.

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  • 1Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, United Kingdom.


The way females utilize the gametes of different males has important consequences for sexual selection, sexual conflict, and intersexual coevolution in natural populations. However, patterns of sperm utilization by females are difficult to demonstrate, and their functional significance remains unclear. Here, we experimentally study sperm ejection in the fowl Gallus gallus domesticus, where females eject preferentially the sperm of socially subordinate males. We study two measures of sperm ejection, (i) the probability that an ejaculate is ejected ("risk") and (ii) the proportion of semen ejected ("intensity"), and show that both measures are strongly nonrandom with respect to characteristics of the ejaculate, the male, and the female. Sperm ejection neutralized on average 80% of an ejaculate, and while larger ejaculates suffered a higher ejection risk, smaller ejaculates suffered more intense ejection. After controlling for ejaculate volume, we found socially subdominant males suffered higher ejection intensity. After controlling for male and ejaculate effects, we found ejection risk increased and intensity declined as females mated with successive males. Collectively, these results reveal that sperm ejection risk and intensity are at least partly actively caused by female behavior and generate independent selective pressures on male and ejaculate phenotypes.

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