Conspecific sperm precedence in Drosophila

Nature. 1997 Aug 14;388(6643):663-6. doi: 10.1038/41753.


Traits that influence the interactions between males and females can evolve very rapidly through sexual selection or sexually antagonistic coevolution. Rapid change in the fertilization systems of independent populations can give rise to reproductive incompatibilities between populations, and may contribute to speciation. Here I provide evidence for cryptic reproductive divergence among three sibling species of Drosophila that leads to a form of postmating isolation. When a female mates with both a conspecific and a heterospecific male, the conspecific sperm fertilize the vast majority of the eggs, regardless of the order of the matings. Heterospecific sperm fertilize fewer eggs after these double matings than after single matings. Experiments using spermless males show that the seminal fluid of the conspecific male is largely responsible for this conspecific sperm precedence. Moreover, when two males of the same species mate sequentially with a female from a different species, a highly variable pattern of sperm precedence replaces the second-male sperm precedence that is consistently found within species. These results indicate that females mediate sperm competition, and that second-male sperm precedence is not an automatic consequence of the mechanics of sperm storage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertilization
  • Male
  • Reproduction
  • Semen / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*