Sperm Mobility: Mechanisms of Fertilizing Efficiency, Genetic Variation and Phenotypic Relationship With Male Status in the Domestic Fowl, Gallus Gallus Domesticus

Proc Biol Sci. 2002 Mar 22;269(1491):607-12. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2001.1925.


When females are sexually promiscuous, sexual selection continues after insemination through sperm competition and cryptic female choice, and male traits conveying an advantage in competitive fertilization are selected for. Although individual male and ejaculate traits are known to influence paternity in a competitive scenario, multiple mechanisms co-occur and interact to determine paternity. The way in which different traits interact with each other and the mechanisms through which their heritability is maintained despite selection remain unresolved. In the promiscuous fowl, paternity is determined by the number of sperm inseminated into a female, which is mediated by male social dominance, and by the quality of the sperm inseminated, measured as sperm mobility. Here we show that: (i) the number of sperm inseminated determines how many sperm reach the female sperm-storage sites, and that sperm mobility mediates the fertilizing efficiency of inseminated sperm, mainly by determining the rate at which sperm are released from the female storage sites, (ii) like social status, sperm mobility is heritable, and (iii) subdominant males are significantly more likely to have higher sperm mobility than dominant males. This study indicates that although the functions of social status and sperm mobility are highly interdependent, the lack of phenotypic integration of these traits may maintain the variability of male fitness and heritability of fertilizing efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Chickens / genetics*
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Fertilization
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Social Dominance*
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility*
  • Spermatozoa / cytology
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*