Rodent sperm work together for better results

January 24, 2007

Although, sperm are inseminated in millions each sperm goes it alone. However, under some circumstances it might be advantageous for sperm to cooperate with one another. This is especially likely to be the case when females are promiscuous and sperm of one male have to compete against those of rival males.

New research by Dr Simone Immler and colleagues from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences shows that in promiscuous rat and mice, where competition is high, individual sperm cooperate with one another in order to out-compete sperm of rival males.

The research shows that this cooperation is possible only because of to the highly specialised design of rat and mouse sperm. Promiscuous species have a particularly well developed 'hook shaped' sperm head which helps individual sperm to hook up to each other and form a 'group'. These groups of sperm contain five to 100 sperm and they swim faster and stronger than individual sperm which makes them better competitors in the race for the fertilisation of the egg.

Dr Simone Immler said: "It was previously believed that sperm not only competed against rival males but that they also competed against each other in order to fertilise the female egg. However, this research shows that when the pressure from rival males is high, individual sperm will cooperate with one another to ensure that at least one of their siblings successfully reaches the female egg."

Citation: Immler S, Moore HDM, Breed WG, Birkhead TR (2007) By Hook or by Crook? Morphometry, Competition and Cooperation in Rodent Sperm. PLoS ONE 2(1): e170. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000170 (dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000170)

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Mathematician's study of 'swarmalators' could direct future science

Related Stories

'Paranoia' about rivals alters insect mating behavior

August 8, 2011

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that male fruitflies experience a type of 'paranoia' in the presence of another male, which doubles the length of time they mate with a female, despite the female of the ...

When sex roles get reversed, some females develop a 'penis'

February 26, 2016

In many species, the males develop elaborated sexual traits to attract females and dissuade potential rival males through competition. Some iconic examples are the extraordinary feathers of the peacock or paradise birds, ...

Recommended for you

Atomic blasting creates new devices to measure nanoparticles

December 14, 2017

Like sandblasting at the nanometer scale, focused beams of ions ablate hard materials to form intricate three-dimensional patterns. The beams can create tiny features in the lateral dimensions—length and width, but to create ...

Loose skin and 'slack volume' protect Hagfish from shark bites

December 14, 2017

Chapman University has published new research showing how hagfishes survive an initial attack from predators before they release large volumes of slime to defend themselves. Because the slime is released after they are attacked, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.