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By hook or by crook? Morphometry, competition and cooperation in rodent sperm

By S. Immler, H.D.M. Moore, W.G. Breed and T.R. Birkhead


Background\ud \ud Sperm design varies enormously across species and sperm competition is thought to be a major factor influencing this variation. However, the functional significance of many sperm traits is still poorly understood. The sperm of most murid rodents are characterised by an apical hook of the sperm head that varies markedly in extent across species. In the European woodmouse Apodemus sylvaticus (Muridae), the highly reflected apical hook of sperm is used to form sperm groups, or “trains,” which exhibited increased swimming velocity and thrusting force compared to individual sperm.\ud \ud Methodology/Principal Findings\ud \ud Here we use a comparative study of murine rodent sperm and demonstrate that the apical hook and sperm cooperation are likely to be general adaptations to sperm competition in rodents. We found that species with relatively larger testes, and therefore more intense sperm competition, have a longer, more reflected apical sperm hook. In addition, we show that sperm groups also occur in rodents other than the European woodmouse.\ud \ud Conclusions\ud \ud Our results suggest that in rodents sperm cooperation is more widespread than assumed so far and highlight the importance of diploid versus haploid selection in the evolution of sperm design and function.\ud \u

Publisher: PLoS
Year: 2007
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