• Schulte-Hostedde, Albrecht
  • Burness, Gary
  • Laurentian University
  • Trent University


Sperm competition results in the evolution of ejaculate characteristics such as high sperm density, high motility, and fast sperm swimming speed. A fundamental assumption of sperm competition theory is that ejaculates with high motility and fast-swimming sperm have an advantage with respect to fertilization success. We tested this assumption by studying the fertilization dynamics of alternative mating tactics (cuckolders and parentals) of male bluegill (Lepomis macrochirusRafinesque, 1819). Sneakers (cuckolders) have faster swimming sperm and a higher proportion of motile sperm immediately following sperm activation than do parentals; however, these variables decline more quickly over time in sneaker sperm than in the sperm of parental males. We used a controlled fertilization experiment to test the prediction that parental males will have higher fertilization success than sneakers late in the sperm activation cycle because of the reduced rate of decline in ejaculate quality over time. We found that as the time from sperm activation increases parental sperm fertilizes more eggs than the sperm of sneakers. Our results support the idea that fertilization success is higher when ejaculates contain a higher proportion of either motile sperm or faster swimming sperm, all else being equal. In addition, after controlling for time from sperm activation, we found a significant bias in fertilization success toward parental males, suggesting that cryptic female choice might play a role in fertilization dynamics.




Collected eggs for a fertilization experiment