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Proc Biol Sci. 1997 Oct 22;264(1387):1497-500.

No evidence of sperm selection by female common shrews.

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  • 1Population Biology Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK.


There is currently much interest in the suggestion that females are capable of post-copulatory (or cryptic) choice for male genetic compatibility. Here, I investigate this idea using data from mixed-paternity litters of the common shrew (Sorex araneus). Females of this species are highly promiscuous and, in natural populations, regularly incur costs of inbreeding by mating with close relatives. Selection should therefore favour female ability for sperm selection on the basis of male relatedness. No evidence was found in support of this idea. Relative number of offspring sired within mixed paternity litters was not significantly correlated with genetic similarity of males to the female mated. Relative fertilization success was, however, significantly related to male epididymal sperm counts. I conclude that most variation in relative fertilization success of male common shrews can be explained in terms of sperm competition, and that females of this species may not be capable of sperm selection.

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