, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 25-32

Why do male Callosobruchus maculatus beetles inseminate so many sperm?

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Male Callosobruchus maculatus F. (Coleoptera: Bruchidae) inseminate more sperm than females can effectively store in their spermathecae. This study examines the adaptive significance of “excess” sperm transfer by measuring components of male and female reproductive success in response to manipulating the number of sperm inseminated. The number of sperm transferred during copulation was reduced from 56,000 ±4,462 to 8,700±1,194 by sequentially mating males to virgin females. Reducing the number of sperm inseminated by the first male to mate had no effect on the extent of sperm precedence, but reducing the number of sperm inseminated by the second male resulted in a significant reduction in the extent of sperm precedence. When large numbers of sperm are inseminated the remating refractory period of females is increased. These results indicate that males transferring large numbers of sperm during copulation have a two-fold advantage at fertilization; they are more effective at preempting previously stored sperm and they are likely to father more offspring by delaying the time of female remating. The transfer of “excess” sperm does not appear to serve as nonpromiscuous male mating effort; the number of eggs laid, their fertility and the subsequent survival of zygotes were unaffected by manipulating the number of sperm inseminated. The underlying mechanisms of sperm precedence were also examined. Simple models of sperm displacement failed to accurately predict the patterns of sperm precedence observed in this species. However, the results do not provide conclusive evidence against the models but rather serve to highlight our limited understanding of the movement of sperm within the female's reproductive tract.