Female age and sperm competition: last-male precedence declines as female age increases

Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Jan 22;270(1511):159-65. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2002.2214.


Until very recently, most studies of sperm competition have focused on variation in male competitive ability. However, we now know that a number of reproductive traits, including oviposition rate, use of stored sperm and receptivity to mating, vary with female condition. Because females can play an active part in the movement of sperm within their reproductive tract, sperm competition may be influenced by female condition. Existing studies of sperm competition in fruitflies ignore the effects of female condition, using females that are 3-4 days old and in their reproductive prime. But condition will decline as a female senesces. Here, we examine the effect of female age on the outcome of sperm competition in three strains of the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster. Previous studies have shown that female age influences preference for mates and male ejaculation strategies. In this study, we find that when males are mated to females that are older than 17 days, last-male sperm precedence decreases significantly. These results could lead to a greater understanding of the physiological mechanisms that regulate the outcome of sperm competition.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertilization
  • Male
  • Reproduction
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm-Ovum Interactions*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*