Evol Ecol Res 14: 1039-1056 (2012)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Comparing sperm swimming speed

Klaus Reinhardt1,2 and Oliver Otti1,3

1Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, 2Department of Biology, Animal Evolutionary Ecology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany and  3Animal Ecology I, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany

Correspondence: K. Reinhardt, Department of Biology, Animal Evolutionary Ecology, University of Tuebingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28, D-72076 Tuebingen, Germany. E-mail: k.reinhardt@uni-tuebingen.de


Question: Do current methods correctly compare sperm swimming speed (SSS) between males, species or species groups?

Data incorporated: Thirty-four studies published since 2009.

Method of analysis: Logical and statistical examination of several assumptions behind comparisons of SSS measurements.

Conclusions: If sperm swimming speed is measured with a time lag from sperm activation, false-positive correlations can arise between sperm swimming speed and sperm longevity, and between initial and later sperm swimming speed. Comparing the mean, rather than the maximum, sperm swimming speed per ejaculate across subjects may also mask trade-off effects. Environmental and genotype × environment interaction effects can complicate, or invalidate, comparisons of sperm swimming speed. Unlike a previous study, we found that sperm swimming speed and sperm longevity in Tanganyikan cichlids were related to mouthbrooding, not to sperm competition.

Keywords: automated sperm analysis, mouthbrooding, sperm age, sperm competition, sperm senescence, sperm velocity, trade-off.

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