Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Worms Triple Sperm Transfer When Paternity Is At Risk

Date:
May 12, 2008
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
Scientists used to think that hermaphrodites, due to their low position in the evolutionary scale, did not have sufficiently developed sensory systems to assess the "quality" of their mates. A new work has shown, however, that earthworms are able to detect the competition by fertilizing the eggs that is going to find its sperm, tripling its volume when there is rivalry. This ability is even more refined as they are able to transfer more sperm to more fertile partners.

Earthworm copulation.
Credit: SINC / Jorge Domínguez

Scientists used to think that hermaphrodites, due to their low position in the evolutionary scale, did not have sufficiently developed sensory systems to assess the “quality” of their mates. A new work has shown, however, that earthworms are able to detect the competition by fertilising the eggs that is going to find its sperm, tripling its volume when there is rivalry. This ability is even more refined as they are able to transfer more sperm to more fertile partners.

Hermaphrodites, organisms that have both female and male reproductive organs, such as earthworms, are denied the right to choose their partner. However, a study by researchers at the University of Vigo has shown that worms are capable of telling whether another worm is a virgin or not, and triple the volume of sperm transferred during copulation if they detect a fertilisation competition risk.

According to the study, which appears in the latest edition of the magazine Proceedings of Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, the partner’s assessment ability, which has often been considered incompatible with invertebrates, is a firm characteristic of worms when their sperm is competing for fertilisation. Authors of the study explained to SINC that “in high sperm competition situations, partner assessment is subject to strong selection in hermaphrodites, making these organisms very selective when choosing to whom and how much sperm to transfer”.

In total, scientists analysed 42 mature and virgin worms, allowing researchers to reach their conclusions. When worms detect a risk of their sperm competing with their rivals, these invertebrates are able to determine whether their partners have copulated previously, in which case they increase the volume of sperm donated. “This increase is even higher when worms mate with much larger partners, as they are more fertile”, explains Jorge Domínguez, one of the authors of the study.

Worms control their sperm volume

Thanks to the double mating experiment carried out by the scientists, the results show that worms have a refined control over the volume of sperm transferred during copulation according to the sex of the partner they are mating with. The advantage of donating such amounts of sperm is due to the highly competitive environment in which these hermaphrodites live.

Multiple mating is common amongst worms and the reason why they have developed specific strategies to deal with strong sperm competition in fertilisation. Researchers suggest that “sperm competition in fertilisation is an evolutionary force which has affected worm mating behaviour”.

Worm courting can last up to an hour during which time the organisms secrete large amounts of mucus and press against each other with short, repetitive rubbing actions for subsequent exchange of sperm. If there is no fertilisation competition, worms are prudent in how much sperm they release, even waiting to mate with high-quality partners. “Worms can control copulation time or, alternatively, can have mechanisms which prevent all their sperm being released in a single mating event”, stress the authors.

The results of the study conclude that the volume of sperm donated to worms that are not virgins has been more variable than that transferred to virgin partners. In this respect, researchers estimated that the volume transferred to larger size partners which had previously copulated was five times greater than that transferred to virgin worms.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Velando A., Eiroa J., Domínguez J. “Brainless but not clueless: earthworms boost their ejaculates when they detect fecund non-virgin partners” Proceedings of The Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 275(1638): 1067-1072

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Worms Triple Sperm Transfer When Paternity Is At Risk." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080508174651.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2008, May 12). Worms Triple Sperm Transfer When Paternity Is At Risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080508174651.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Worms Triple Sperm Transfer When Paternity Is At Risk." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080508174651.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) — Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) — Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Peace Corps Pulls Workers From W. Africa Over Ebola Fears

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — The Peace Corps is one of several U.S.-based organizations to pull workers out of West Africa because of the Ebola outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) — Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins