Resolving mechanisms of short-term competitive fertilization success in the red flour beetle

Elizabeth M. Droge-Young, John M. Belote, Giselle S. Perez, Scott S Pitnick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Postcopulatory sexual selection occurs when sperm from multiple males occupy a female's reproductive tract at the same time and is expected to generate strong selection pressures on traits related to competitive fertilization success. However, knowledge of competitive fertilization success mechanisms and characters targeted by resulting selection is limited, partially due to the difficulty of discriminating among sperm from different males within the female reproductive tract. Here, we resolved mechanisms of competitive fertilization success in the promiscuous flour beetle Tribolium castaneum. Through creation of transgenic lines with fluorescent-tagged sperm heads, we followed the fate of focal male sperm in female reproductive tracts while tracking paternity across numerous rematings. Our results indicate that a given male's sperm persist and fertilize eggs through at least seven rematings. Additionally, the proportion of a male's sperm in the bursa (the site of spermatophore deposition), which is influenced by both timing of female's ejecting excess sperm and male size, significantly predicted paternity share in the 24 h following a mating. Contrary to expectation, proportional representation of sperm within the female's specialized sperm-storage organ did not significantly predict paternity, though spermathecal sperm may play a role in fertilization when females do not have access to mates for longer time periods. We address the adaptive significance of the identified reproductive mechanisms in the context of T. castaneum's unique mating system and ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Ejaculate
  • Postcopulatory sexual selection
  • Promiscuity
  • Remating
  • Sperm competition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science

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