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PeerJ. 2015 Dec 8;3:e1478. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1478. eCollection 2015.

Intramale variation in sperm size: functional significance in a polygynous mammal.

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SaBio, IREC (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM) , Albacete , Spain ; Department of Animal Science and Food Processing/Faculty of Tropical AgriSciences, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague , Prague , Czech Republic.
Department of Veterinary Sciences/Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague , Prague , Czech Republic.
SaBio, IREC (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM) , Albacete , Spain.


Studies concerning the relationships between sperm size and velocity at the intraspecific level are quite limited and often yielded contradictory results across the animal kingdom. Intramale variation in sperm size may represent a meaningful factor to predict sperm velocity, due to its relationship with the level of sperm competition among related taxa. Because sperm phenotype is under post-copulatory sexual selection, we hypothesized that a reduced intramale variation in sperm size is associated with sperm competitiveness in red deer. Our results show that low variation in sperm size is strongly related to high sperm velocity and normal sperm morphology, which in turn are good predictors of male fertility in this species. Furthermore, it is well known that the red deer show high variability in testicular mass but there is limited knowledge concerning the significance of this phenomenon at intraspecific level, even though it may reveal interesting processes of sexual selection. Thereby, as a preliminary result, we found that absolute testes mass is negatively associated with intramale variation in sperm size. Our findings suggest that sperm size variation in red deer is under a strong selective force leading to increase sperm function efficiency, and reveal new insights into sexual selection mechanisms.


Red deer; Sexual selection; Sperm competition; Sperm morphology; Sperm velocity; Testes size

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