Sperm competition

From Academic Kids

Sperm competition is "competition between sperm of two or more males for the fertilisation of an ova" (Parker 1970). Sperm competition is often compared to having tickets in a raffle; a male has a better chance of winning (i.e. fathering offspring) the more tickets he has (i.e. the more sperm he inseminates a female with). However, sperm are costly to produce and the energy may be spent elsewhere such as defending a territory to the exclusion of other males; the distribution of resources are called strategies. The optimum amount is the evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS).

Sperm competition may lead to evolutionary adaptations for producing more sperm, such as larger testes. Such adaptations cost and so species with low sperm competition invest in mate competition instead.

In primates Harcourt et al (1981) studied the relative size of testes compared to body mass against the mating system. They found that promiscuous chimpanzees have larger testes compared to polygynous gorillas.

The British biologist Geoffrey Parker proposed the concept of sperm competition in a 1970 paper.

References

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