, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 373-390
Date: 23 Jul 2010

Geographical variation in sperm morphology in the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

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Many species differ genetically, physiologically, and morphologically between geographically distinct populations, typically in response to variation in ecological and climatic variables. Little is known, however, about geographical variation in sperm morphology. Sperm morphology is under strong sexual selection, has been shown to evolve rapidly, and often co-varies with other reproductive traits (e.g., testis size or mating system) that differ between populations in some species. The aim of this study was to establish whether sperm morphology varies between populations of the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), a species with an enormous breeding range and marked inter-population variation in both body size and mating system. We found (1) highly significant variation in sperm morphology among study sites, (2) a gradual increase in sperm length from the southwest to the northeast of the breeding range, and (3) a strong negative association between sperm length and body size. However, the relationship with the mating system remains unclear. Several hypotheses to explain these patterns are proposed.