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Rodent Sperm Work Together For Better Results

Date:
January 24, 2007
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Although, sperm are inseminated in millions each sperm goes it alone. However, under some circumstances it might be advantageous for sperm to cooperate with one another. This is especially likely to be the case when females are promiscuous and sperm of one male have to compete against those of rival males.

Individual sperm in promiscuous rodents have learned to work together in order to compete against sperm of rival males, according to new research carried out at the University of Sheffield

Although, sperm are inseminated in millions each sperm goes it alone. However, under some circumstances it might be advantageous for sperm to cooperate with one another. This is especially likely to be the case when females are promiscuous and sperm of one male have to compete against those of rival males. New research by Dr Simone Immler and colleagues from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences shows that in promiscuous rat and mice, where competition is high, individual sperm cooperate with one another in order to out-compete sperm of rival males.

The research shows that this cooperation is possible only because of to the highly specialised design of rat and mouse sperm. Promiscuous species have a particularly well developed 'hook shaped' sperm head which helps individual sperm to hook up to each other and form a 'group'. These groups of sperm contain five to 100 sperm and they swim faster and stronger than individual sperm which makes them better competitors in the race for the fertilisation of the egg.

Dr Simone Immler said: "It was previously believed that sperm not only competed against rival males but that they also competed against each other in order to fertilise the female egg. However, this research shows that when the pressure from rival males is high, individual sperm will cooperate with one another to ensure that at least one of their siblings successfully reaches the female egg."

The results will be published on Wednesday 24th January in the freely available, open-access journal -- online at http://www.plosone.org.

Citation: Immler S, Moore HDM, Breed WG, Birkhead TR (2007) By Hook or by Crook? Morphometry, Competition and Cooperation in Rodent Sperm. PLoS ONE 2(1): e170. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000170 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000170)


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Public Library of Science. "Rodent Sperm Work Together For Better Results." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070123212616.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2007, January 24). Rodent Sperm Work Together For Better Results. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070123212616.htm
Public Library of Science. "Rodent Sperm Work Together For Better Results." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070123212616.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

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