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Evolution. 2014 Oct;68(10):3008-19. doi: 10.1111/evo.12477. Epub 2014 Aug 12.

Sperm competition and the evolution of seminal fluid composition.

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Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, CB-3280, Coker Hall, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 27599-3280.


Male ejaculates include large amounts of seminal fluid proteins (Sfps) that influence male sperm competitive success. In spite of their diverse proximate functions, Sfps involved in sperm competition increase male fitness in one of three ways: (1) "avoidance" proteins help males avoid sperm competition, (2) "defense" proteins help males defend their sperm from displacement by the female's subsequent mate, and (3) "offense" proteins aid males in displacing sperm of preceding males. Here, we present a population genetic model of the evolution of allocation of finite resources by males to the three kinds of Sfps. We analyze the influence of relative efficiencies of different Sfps, of plasticity in resource allocation, and of differences in viability costs of Sfps. We find that in absence of plasticity or different viability costs, equal investment in defense and offense Sfps evolves, irrespective of their relative efficiency. In all cases, males evolve to invest more in avoidance when avoidance proteins are increasingly efficient, and when offense is more efficient than defense. Differences in viability costs result in lower investment in costly proteins, whereas plasticity has complex effects, influencing both the optimal seminal fluid composition and maintenance of variation in investment in these proteins across populations.


Accessory gland proteins; ejaculate; mathematical model; resource allocation; seminal fluid proteins; sexual conflict

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