Monday, March 21, 2005

367: Genetic effects on sperm design in the zebra finch

Genetic effects on sperm design in the zebra finch:

Sperm design and function are important determinants of male reproductive success and are expected to be under strong selection. The way that spermatozoa phenotypes evolve is poorly understood, because there have been few studies of the quantitative genetics of sperm. Here we show, in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata, an extraordinary degree of inter-male variation in sperm design that is independent of sperm swimming velocity. A quantitative genetics study using data from over 900 zebra finches in a complex breeding experiment showed that sperm head, mid-piece and flagellum length are heritable, that negative genetic correlations exist between sperm traits, and that significant indirect (maternal) genetic effects exist. Selection on the zebra finch sperm phenotype may be low because sperm competition is infrequent in this species, and this, in combination with negative genetic correlations and maternal genetic effects, may account for the variation in sperm phenotype between males. These results have important implications for the evolution of sperm in other taxa.

Common descent, evolutionary hypothesis testing, new predictions generated. Very neat.