Linking sperm length and velocity: The importance of intramale variation

John L. Fitzpatrick, Francisco Garcia-Gonzalez, Jonathan P. Evans

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    Selection imposed through sperm competition is commonly thought to promote the evolution of longer sperm, since sperm length is assumed to be positively associated with sperm swimming velocity. Yet, the basis for this assumption remains controversial, and there is surprisingly little intraspecific evidence demonstrating such a link between sperm form and function. Here, we show that sperm length and velocity are highly correlated in the sea urchin Heliocidaris erythrogramma, but importantly we report that failure to account for within-male variation in these sperm traits can obscure this relationship. These findings, in conjunction with the mounting evidence for extremely high levels of intraspecific variance in sperm traits, suggest that a functional link between sperm morphology and velocity may be more prevalent than what current evidence suggests. Our findings also suggest that selection for faster swimming sperm may promote the evolution of longer sperm, thereby supporting recent findings from macroevolutionary studies. © 2010 The Royal Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)797-799
    Number of pages2
    JournalBiology letters
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2010


    • Free-spawning
    • Sexual selection
    • Sperm competition
    • Sperm length
    • Sperm morphology
    • Sperm swimming speed


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