International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 1159–1171

Effects of Sexual Selection Upon Sperm Morphology and Sexual Skin Morphology in Primates

  • Alan F. Dixson
  • Matthew J. Anderson

DOI: 10.1023/

Cite this article as:
Dixson, A.F. & Anderson, M.J. International Journal of Primatology (2004) 25: 1159. doi:10.1023/


We review possible effects of sexual selection upon sperm morphology, and sexual skin morphology, in primates. Comparative morphometric studies, involving 31 species representing 21 primate genera, revealed a positive relationship between volume of the sperm midpiece, occurrences of multiple partner matings by females, and large relative testes sizes, which indicate sperm competition. The midpiece houses the mitochondria required to power sperm motility. Hence, sperm competition may have influenced the evolution of increased mitochondrial loading in species where females mate with multiple partners during the fertile period. Females of some Old World monkey species and female chimpanzees exhibit large estrogen-dependent sexual skin swellings during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Studies of mandrills support the conclusion that swellings act primarily as sexually attractive, graded signals and that swelling size may indicate current reproductive quality. Measurements of the genitalia in chimpanzees indicate a secondary function for female swellings. The swelling increases the operating depth of the female's vagina by ≤50% during the fertile phase of her cycle. Males have evolved long, filiform penes capable of placing sperm close to the os cervix during competitive multipartner matings. This may exemplify how morphologic specializations in females can influence the coevolution of advantageous genitalic specializations in males: the phenomenon that Eberhard (1985) dubbed cryptic female choice.

sexual selection sperm competition sexual skin sperm midpiece cryptic female choice 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan F. Dixson
    • 1
  • Matthew J. Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Reproduction of Endangered SpeciesZoological Society of San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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