Sperm cells have undergone an extraordinarily divergent evolution among metazoan animals. Parker recognized that because female animals frequently mate with more than one male, sexual selection would continue after mating and impose strong selection on sperm cells to maximize fertilization success. Comparative analyses among species have revealed a general relationship between the strength of selection from sperm competition and the length of sperm cells and their constituent parts. However, comparative analyses cannot address causation. Here, we use experimental evolution to ask whether sexual selection can drive the divergence of sperm cell phenotype, using the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus
as a model. We either relaxed sexual selection by enforcing monogamy or allowed sexual selection to continue for 20 generations before sampling males and measuring the total length of sperm cells and their constituent parts, the acrosome, nucleus, and flagella. We found differences in the length of the sperm cell nucleus but no differences in the length of the acrosome, flagella, or total sperm length. Our data suggest that different sperm cell components may respond independently to sexual selection and contribute to the divergent evolution of these extraordinary cells.
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