Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Sperm Competition

  • Kate L. DurrantEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_438-1


Sperm competition is defined as a form of sexual selection that occurs when ejaculates from multiple males compete for the fertilization of an individual female’s ova. Most female organisms are known to mate with multiple males, so sperm competition is considered to be a widespread and powerful evolutionary force. Competition between males may occur before or after copulation, to either prevent or win competitions, leading to the evolution of numerous traits to enhance fertilization success. Sperm competition sensu stricto refers only to the competition between ejaculates after two males have inseminated the same female.


The theoretical basis of sperm competition was formalized by Parker (1970) and relied on several key observations. The first is that the evolution of internal, or close to internal, fertilization was not only subject to natural selection pressures to maximize fertilization chances for each ovum, but also sexual selection between competing males...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesThe University of NottinghamNottinghamUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Hanbury
    • 1
  1. 1.Averett UniversityDanvilleUSA