Effects of gamete traits on fertilization in the sea and the evolution of sexual dimorphism

Abstract

THE evolution of egg and sperm1,2, and more derived forms of sexual dimorphism, is thought to be driven by sperm competition and postzygotic survival; males are limited by fertilizations, females by resources3. Evidence of sperm competition comes from internal fertilizers, or cases where sperm are deposited on eggs4, but in free-spawners, the ancestral mating strategy (refs 1,5 but see ref. 6), females are often sperm limited7,8. Laboratory experiments on sea urchins demonstrate that intraspecific differences in gamete attributes, such as egg size, can influence rates of fertilization. Field experiments in which gametes are released and recaptured demonstrate that the influence of gamete traits on fertilization is not overwhelmed by sea conditions, and that variation in gamete traits can have important fitness consequences. These results suggest a new mechanism for the evolution of anisogamy and sexual dimorphism, in which sperm limitation is important, and natural selection for enhanced fertilization acts on females as well as males.

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Levitan, D. Effects of gamete traits on fertilization in the sea and the evolution of sexual dimorphism. Nature 382, 153–155 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/382153a0

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