Paternity in mallards: effects of sperm quality and female sperm selection for inbreeding avoidance

Angelika Denk, Alois Holzmann, Anne Peters, Euenne Vermeirssen, Bart Kempenaers

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89 Citations (Scopus)


Postcopulatory processes might play an important role in sexual selection. In theory, fertilization success could be controlled by females via selection of particular sperm within their reproductive tract, or it could be determined by sperm competition per se. In practice, these two mechanisms are difficult to disentangle. To assess the relative importance of both mechanisms we used artificial insemination in combination with measurements of sperm quality (swimming speed and motility) in mallards. In this species, females often lack behavioral control over copulations and hence may use postcopulatory mechanisms to optimize their reproductive output. One important factor affecting female fitness may be selection of genetically compatible males. To investigate the influence of sperm quality and parental relatedness on paternity we inseminated 12 groups of related females with a sperm mixture containing equal numbers of sperm from a brother and from an unrelated male. Paternity was independent of the relatedness of the siring male to the female but was significantly affected by long-term sperm swimming speed and motility. No interaction between relatedness and sperm quality on paternity was observed. These results suggest that female mallards are not able to select sperm on a purely genetic basis and emphasize the importance of sperm quality in gaining paternity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)825 - 833
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

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