Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 357–365 | Cite as

Extra-pair paternity, sperm competition and the evolution of testis size in birds

  • A. P. Moller
  • J. V. Briskie


Sperm competition should select for increased sperm production if the probability of fertilization by a specific male is proportional to the relative number of sperm inseminated. A review of the literature generally supports the predicted positive association between sperm production or allocation and various measures of the presumed intensity of sperm competition. However, it is not clear how increased sperm competition is related to extra-pair paternity, and it remains unknown whether certainty of paternity should be associated with relative testis size. Based on a large sample of bird species with information on extra-pair paternity gathered from the literature, we demonstrate that testis mass is related positively to the level of extra-pair paternity, after controlling for body size and phylogeny. Although large testes may be necessary to avoid sperm depletion in species in which males frequently engage in multi-pair copulations, we argue that selection has favoured increased testis mass in situations of more intense sperm competition in order to retaliate against copulations by rival males. The fact the males are not always successful in retaliating against rival ejaculates further suggests that females may largely control the allocation of paternity in birds and that increased sperm production by males may simply be a male strategy to make the best of a bad situation.

Key words

Birds Extra-pair paternity Testis mass Sperm competition Control of paternity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. P. Moller
    • 1
  • J. V. Briskie
    • 2
  1. 1.Zoological InstituteCopenhagen UniversityCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of BiologyQueen's UniversityKingstonCanada

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