Evolution of delayed reproductive senescence in male fruit flies: sperm competition

Genetica. 1993;91(1-3):111-25. doi: 10.1007/BF01435992.


Populations of Drosophila melanogaster that had been subjected to long-term selection favoring either delayed or rapid senescence were compared with respect to age-specific components of male reproductive success involving sperm competition. These components of reproductive success were divided into those related to sperm 'defense' (protection of sperm from other males), and into those related to sperm 'offense' (ability to mate with previously mated females and to displace the sperm of other males). Males were tested at four ages ranging from 1-2 d to 5-6 wk after eclosion. Several aspects of sperm defense capability showed clear evidence of senescent decline. Furthermore, males from populations selected for delayed senescence were superior to males from control (rapid senescence) populations with regard to components of sperm defense. The superiority of males from populations with delayed senescence either increased as a function of male age, or was present at all ages tested. These results indicate that the rate of reproductive senescence in male D. melanogaster can be altered in predictable directions by artificial selection. There were no differences between selection regimes with regard to sperm offense, and most components of sperm offense did not show clear evidence of senescence. The improved late-age reproductive success of males from populations selected for delayed senescence did not appear to entail any cost or trade-off at early ages with respect to the reproductive traits examined in these experiments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Breeding
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Reproduction
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*