Success in sperm competition, occurring whenever females mate with multiple males , is predicted to be influenced by variation in ejaculate quality and interactions among competing sperm . Yet, apart from sperm number, relevant ejaculate characteristics and sperm-sperm interactions are poorly understood, particularly within a multivariate framework and the natural selective environment of the female reproductive tract. Here, we used isogenic lines of Drosophila melanogaster with distinguishable sperm to demonstrate and partition genetic variation in multiple sperm quality and performance traits. Next, by competing males from different lines, we show how rival sperm significantly influence each other's velocity and reveal that males with relatively slow and/or long sperm better displace rival sperm and resist displacement, thus avoiding ejection by the female from her reproductive tract. Finally, we establish fitness consequences of genetic variation in sperm quality and its role in securing a numerical advantage in storage by showing that offspring paternity is determined strictly by the representation of stored, competing sperm. These results provide novel insight into complex postcopulatory processes, illustrate that different ejaculate traits are critical at different biologically relevant time-points, and provide a critical foundation for elucidating the role of postcopulatory sexual selection in trait diversification and speciation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)