Faculté des sciences

Female-mediated differential sperm storage in a fly with complex spermathecae, Scatophaga stercoraria

Hellriegel, Barbara ; Bernasconi, Giorgina

In: Animal Behaviour, 2000, vol. 59, no. 2, p. 311-317

Multiple spermathecae potentially allow selective sperm use, provided that sperm from rival males are stored differentially, that is, in different proportions across storage compartments. In the yellow dung fly, Scatophaga stercoraria, females have three spermathecae arranged as a doublet and singlet. To test whether females store the sperm of rival males actively and differentially, we... Plus

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    Summary
    Multiple spermathecae potentially allow selective sperm use, provided that sperm from rival males are stored differentially, that is, in different proportions across storage compartments. In the yellow dung fly, Scatophaga stercoraria, females have three spermathecae arranged as a doublet and singlet. To test whether females store the sperm of rival males actively and differentially, we mated fixed male pairs to three females. After copulation, females were (1) dissected immediately before they could start laying a clutch of eggs, (2) left awake for 30 min but prevented from oviposition, or (3) anaesthetized with carbon dioxide for 30 min to interfere with the muscular control presumably required for sperm transport from the site of insemination to the spermathecae. For each female, we estimated the proportion of the second male's sperm stored in her spermathecae (S2 value), using sperm length as a male marker. After copulation, the S2 values in the singlet and doublet spermathecae differed significantly, indicating differential sperm storage during copulation. Postcopulatory treatment affected differential sperm storage significantly. Females dissected immediately had lower S2 values in the doublet than in the singlet spermatheca, while females left awake showed the reverse pattern for the same two males. This reversal did not occur when females were treated with carbon dioxide. The results indicate differential storage of sperm from different males during copulation and that female muscular activity can affect storage and separation of competing ejaculates beyond copulation.