Mechanisms underlying the sperm quality advantage in Drosophila melanogaster

James M. Pattarini, William T. Starmer, Adam Bjork, Scott Pitnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Contrary to early predictions of sperm competition theory, postcopulatory sexual selection favoring increased investment per sperm (e.g., sperm size, sperm quality) has been demonstrated in numerous organisms. We empirically demonstrate for Drosophila melanogaster that both sperm quality and sperm quantity independently contribute to competitive male fertilization success. In addition to these independent effects, there was a significant interaction between sperm quality and quantity that suggests an internal positive reinforcement on selection for sperm quality, with selection predicted to intensify as investment per sperm increases and the number of sperm competing declines. The mechanism underlying the sperm quality advantage is elucidated through examination of the relationship between female sperm-storage organ morphology and the differential organization of different length sperm within the organ. Our results exemplify that primary sex cells can bear secondary sexual straits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2064-2080
Number of pages17
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Cryptic female choice
  • Postcopulatory sexual selection
  • Sperm competition
  • Sperm quality
  • Sperm size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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