Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 301-309

Variation in sperm morphometry and sperm competition among barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) populations

  • Terje LaskemoenAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of Oslo Email author 
  • , Tomas AlbrechtAffiliated withInstitute of Vertebrate Biology, v.v.i., Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicDepartment of Zoology, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague
  • , Andrea Bonisoli-AlquatiAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina
  • , Jaroslav CepakAffiliated withBird-ringing Station, National Museum
  • , Florentino de LopeAffiliated withDepartamento de Anatomia, Biologia Celular y Zoologia, Universidad de Extremadura
  • , Ignacio G. HermosellAffiliated withDepartamento de Anatomia, Biologia Celular y Zoologia, Universidad de Extremadura
  • , Lars Erik JohannessenAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of Oslo
  • , Oddmund KlevenAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of OsloNorwegian Institute for Nature Research-NINA
  • , Alfonso MarzalAffiliated withDepartamento de Anatomia, Biologia Celular y Zoologia, Universidad de Extremadura
    • , Timothy A. MousseauAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina
    • , Anders P. MøllerAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution
    • , Raleigh J. RobertsonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Queen’s University
    • , Geir RudolfsenAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of OsloDepartment for Environmental Radioactivity, Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, Fram Center
    • , Nicola SainoAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of OsloDipartimento di Biologia, Universit’a degli Studi di Milano
    • , Yoni VortmanAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of OsloDepartment of Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University
    • , Jan T. LifjeldAffiliated withNatural History Museum, University of Oslo

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Abstract

Spermatozoa vary greatly in size and shape among species across the animal kingdom. Postcopulatory sexual selection is thought to be the major evolutionary force driving this diversity. In contrast, less is known about how sperm size varies among populations of the same species. Here, we investigate geographic variation in sperm size in barn swallows Hirundo rustica, a socially monogamous passerine with a wide Holarctic breeding distribution. We included samples from seven populations and three subspecies: five populations of ssp. rustica in Europe (Czech, Italy, Norway, Spain, and Ukraine), one population of ssp. transitiva in Israel, and one population of ssp. erythrogaster in Canada. All sperm traits (head length, midpiece length, tail length, and total length) varied significantly among populations. The variation among the European rustica populations was much lower than the differences among subspecies, indicating that sperm traits reflect phylogenetic distance. We also performed a test of the relationship between the coefficient of between-male variation in total sperm length and extrapair paternity levels across different populations within a species. Recent studies have found a strong negative relationship between sperm size variation and extrapair paternity among species. Here, we show a similar negative relationship among six barn swallow populations, which suggests that the variance in male sperm length in a population is shaped by the strength of stabilizing postcopulatory sexual selection.

Keywords

Barn swallow Extrapair paternity Hirundo rustica Sperm competition Sperm size