Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Attractive Males Release Fewer Sperm

Date:
July 10, 2009
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Attractive males release fewer sperm per mating to maximize their chances of producing offspring across a range of females, according to a new article on the evolution of ejaculation strategies. The findings suggest that, paradoxically, matings with attractive males may be less fertile than those with unattractive ones.

Attractive males release fewer sperm per mating to maximise their chances of producing offspring across a range of females, according to a new paper on the evolution of ejaculation strategies. The findings by researchers at UCL (University College London) and the University of Oxford suggest that, paradoxically, matings with attractive males may be less fertile than those with unattractive ones.

Related Articles


In a paper to bepublished in the journal American Naturalist, the team mathematically modelled a range of male ejaculation strategies to look for the optimum “sperm load” per mating, and how this might vary depending on mating patterns. Previous studies have shown that in animals such as the domestic fowl, and fish such as the Arctic charr, males with privileged access to females produce ejaculates of lower fertilising quality than subordinate males.

Sam Tazzyman, UCL CoMPLEX (Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology), says: “In some species, females mate with many different males. Each male’s sperm competes with that of other males in a process known as ‘sperm competition’. Since males have finite resources to allocate to breeding, they allocate them carefully to each mating to maximise their number of offspring. If a male puts a lot of resources into each mating he will get more offspring per mating, but at the expense of fewer matings. If, on the other hand, a male puts few resources into each mating he will secure less paternity per mating, but will be able to carry out more matings overall. Thus, there is a trade-off between number of matings and success per mating."

“How a male negotiates this trade-off depends on how easy he finds it to attract females. The more attractive a male is, the more females will be willing to mate with him, reducing the value of each mating to him. This means it is optimal for him to contribute fewer sperm per mating. Although this reduces fertility per mating, it maximises the number of offspring he sires overall. Less attractive males secure fewer matings but value each of them more highly, and by allocating more sperm to each mating make the most of their meagre opportunities. This leads to the rather paradoxical prediction that matings with attractive males may be less fertile than those with unattractive males."

“There are as yet few good examples of this process found in nature, as it has generally been assumed that more attractive or higher quality males will be more fertile. A possible case can be seen in chickens, which in the wild live in groups of varying numbers of males and females. Females mate with many males, so males are subject to sperm competition. However, the attractiveness of a male is determined in large part by his social standing. Males higher up the pecking order find it easier to secure matings with the females, but they transfer fewer sperm to females. In addition, the sperm of dominant birds is less motile and has lower fertilising efficiency than the sperm of subordinate birds. Scientists can artificially change the pecking order, and when this is done, the new dominant male's sperm quickly loses motility, while that of males reduced to subordinate status increases in motility.”

“Further work in this area should look at males that are similarly attractive, but have different levels of resources to allocate to sperm production, to see how this alters their sperm number and quality. The model should also be expanded to include the effects of short-term sperm depletion, which is known to affect ejaculate content when males re-mate quickly. We also would like to explore whether the lower fertility of attractive males causes females to start avoiding attractive males that mate too often, as these males reduce their fertility.”

“Finally, how this work applies to humans and other primates is not yet known. Human attractiveness is complicated and influenced by a number of factors including cultural preferences. Nonetheless, ejaculate size and sperm quality are likely to have been moulded by similar forces, like attractiveness and the number of sexual partners, that are important in other species.”

This work was supported by an EPSRC Research Studentship.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. S Tazzyman, T Pizzari, R Seymour and A Pomiankowski. The evolution of continuous variation in ejaculate expenditure strategy. September issue of the journal American Naturalist., September, 2009 DOI: 10.1086/603612

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Attractive Males Release Fewer Sperm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090709095425.htm>.
University College London. (2009, July 10). Attractive Males Release Fewer Sperm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090709095425.htm
University College London. "Attractive Males Release Fewer Sperm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090709095425.htm (accessed November 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

Raw: Baby Okapi Born at Houston Zoo

AP (Nov. 20, 2014) The Houston Zoo released video of a male baby okapi. Okapis, also known as the "forest giraffe", are native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Video is mute from source. (Nov. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Mysterious Glow Worms Found in the Amazon

Buzz60 (Nov. 20, 2014) Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer teamed up with entomologist Aaron Pomerantz and others to investigate a predatory glow worm found in the Amazon. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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