Operational sex ratios and sperm limitation in populations of Drosophila pachea

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79 Scopus citations


Males of the cactophilic fruitfly, Drosophila pachea, produce relatively few but very large sperm, and partition their limited gamete numbers among successive mates. The present study found that males take 10 days longer than females, post-eclosion, to become sexually mature. The pattern of testes development suggests that the need to produce testes long enough to manufacture the giant sperm is the cause of the delayed male maturity. These findings generate the prediction that the operational sex ratio (OSR) of populations will be female-biased. The size, sex ratio, and OSR of natural populations were examined. In general, local populations tended to be small and sex ratios tended to be slightly male-biased. However, as predicted, the OSR of populations, at least in one season, tended to be female-biased, with an average of 2.3 receptive females for each sexually active male. Results of laboratory experiments to determine the relationship between female remating frequency and fitness, and between population OSR and productivity, suggest that natural populations with female-biased OSRs are sperm-limited. The origin and maintenance of sperm gigantism and the unusual sperm-partitioning behavior of males are discussed with respect to population structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-391
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Age of maturity
  • Drosophila
  • Maxim system
  • Operational sex ratio
  • Sperm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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