Sperm swimming performance affects male fertilization success, particularly in species with high sperm competition. Understanding how sperm morphology impacts swimming performance is therefore important. Sperm swimming speed is hypothesized to increase with total sperm length, relative flagellum length (with the flagellum generating forward thrust), and relative midpiece length (as the midpiece contains the mitochondria). We tested these hypotheses and tested for divergence in sperm traits in five island populations of Canary Islands chiffchaff (Phylloscopus canariensis
). We confirmed incipient mitochondrial DNA differentiation between Gran Canaria and the other islands. Sperm swimming speed correlated negatively with total sperm length, did not correlate with relative flagellum length, and correlated negatively with relative midpiece length (for Gran Canaria only). The proportion of motile cells increased with relative flagellum length on Gran Canaria only. Sperm morphology was similar across islands. We thus add to a growing number of studies on passerine birds that do not support sperm morphology–swimming speed hypotheses. We suggest that the swimming mechanics of passerine sperm are sufficiently different from mammalian sperm that predictions from mammalian hydrodynamic models should no longer be applied for this taxon. While both sperm morphology and sperm swimming speed are likely under selection in passerines, the relationship between them requires further elucidation.
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