Evolution of multiple kinds of female sperm-storage organs in Drosophila

Scott Pitnick, Therese Markow, Greg S. Spicer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

291 Scopus citations


Females of all species belonging to the family Drosophilidae have two kinds of sperm-storage organs: paired spherical spermathecae and a single elongate tubular seminal receptacle. We examined 113 species belonging to the genus Drosophila and closely allied genera and describe variation in female sperm-storage organ use and morphology. The macroevolutionary pattern of organ dysfunction and morphological divergence suggests that ancestrally both kinds of organs stored sperm. Loss of use of the spermathecae has evolved at least 13 times; evolutionary regain of spermathecal function has rarely if ever occurred. Loss of use of the seminal receptacle has likely occurred only once; in this case, all descendant species possess unusually elaborate spermathecae. Data further indicate that the seminal receptacle is the primary sperm-storage organ in Drosophila. This organ exhibits a pattern of strong correlated evolution with the length of sperm. The evolution of multiple kinds of female sperm-storage organs and the rapidly divergent and correlated evolution of sperm and female reproductive tract morphology are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1804-1822
Number of pages19
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Cryptic female choice
  • Reproduction
  • Sexual selection
  • Sperm
  • Sperm competition
  • Spermatheca
  • Vestigial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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