Faculté des sciences

Sperm survival in the female reproductive tract in the fly Scathophaga stercoraria (L.)

Bernasconi, Giorgina ; Hellriegel, B. ; Heyland, A. ; Ward, P. I.

In: Journal of Insect Physiology, 2002, vol. 48, no. 2, p. 197-203

While sperm competition risk favours males transferring many sperm to secure fertilizations, females of a variety of species actively reduce sperm numbers reaching their reproductive tract, e.g. by extrusion or killing. Potential benefits of spermicide to females include nutritional gains, influence over sperm storage and paternity, and the elimination of sperm bearing somatic mutations that... Plus

Ajouter à la liste personnelle
    Summary
    While sperm competition risk favours males transferring many sperm to secure fertilizations, females of a variety of species actively reduce sperm numbers reaching their reproductive tract, e.g. by extrusion or killing. Potential benefits of spermicide to females include nutritional gains, influence over sperm storage and paternity, and the elimination of sperm bearing somatic mutations that would lower zygote fitness.
    We investigated changes in sperm viability after in vivo and in vitro exposure to the female tract in the polyandrous fly, Scathophaga stercoraria. Sperm viability was significantly lower in the females' spermathecae immediately after mating than in the experimental males' testes. Males also varied significantly in the proportion of live sperm found in storage in vivo. However, the exact mechanism of sperm degradation remains to be clarified. In vitro exposure to extracts of the female reproductive tract, including female accessory glands, failed to significantly lower sperm viability compared to controls. These results are consistent either with postcopulatory sperm mortality in vivo depending entirely on the male (with individual differences in sperm viability, motility or longevity) or with postcopulatory sperm mortality being subtly affected by female effects which were not detected by the in vitro experimental conditions. Importantly, we found no evidence in support of the hypothesis that female accessory glands contribute to sexual conflict via spermicide. Therefore, female muscular control remains to date the only ascertained mechanism of female influence on sperm storage in this species.