Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 281–288

Copulatory plugs do not assure high first male fertilisation success: sperm displacement in a lizard

  • Pedro L. Moreira
  • Vera L. Nunes
  • José Martín
  • Octávio S. Paulo
Original Paper


Sperm competition selects for opposing male defensive and offensive reproductive traits, and its outcome may be determined by the effectiveness to which one trait has evolved to out-compete the other. We tested the effectiveness of a first male plug physical interference with a second male insemination (defence) vs the effectiveness of plug and associated sperm displacement by a second male (offence) on the outcome of sperm competition in Iberian rock lizards. We conducted a double mating experiment where we compared the proportion of eggs per clutch fertilised by the same second males (against the same first males) when they copulated with females 30 min (first male plug adhered firmly inside the female cloaca) and 4 h (first male plug loosely adhered or shed from the female cloaca) after first males. We found that second males fertilised the majority of the eggs per clutch in the 30-min treatment, whereas fertilisations were equally shared between the two males in the 4-h treatment. These results show that plugs have little defensive effectiveness, and thus, do not assure high first male fertilisation success. Instead, sperm displacement appears to be associated with plug displacement. That is, because sperm embedded in first male plugs, and displaced from competition for fertilisations by second males, is expected to increase in number with decreasing time allowed for female sperm transport, second males thus enjoy higher fertilisation success. This study shows that offensive plug displacement out-competes plug defensive role in Iberian rock lizards. Moreover, it reveals sperm displacement as a novel sperm competition mechanism in reptiles.


Copulatory plug Iberian rock lizard Offensive and defensive traits Sperm competition Sperm displacement 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro L. Moreira
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vera L. Nunes
    • 1
  • José Martín
    • 2
  • Octávio S. Paulo
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Biologia AmbientalFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSICMadridSpain

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