Developmental temperature affects the expression of ejaculatory traits and the outcome of sperm competition in Callosobruchus maculatus

R. Vasudeva, D. C. Deeming, P. E. Eady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The outcome of post-copulatory sexual selection is determined by a complex set of interactions between the primary reproductive traits of two or more males and their interactions with the reproductive traits of the female. Recently, a number of studies have shown the primary reproductive traits of both males and females express phenotypic plasticity in response to the thermal environment experienced during ontogeny. However, how plasticity in these traits affects the dynamics of sperm competition remains largely unknown. Here, we demonstrate plasticity in testes size, sperm size and sperm number in response to developmental temperature in the bruchid beetle Callosobruchus maculatus. Males reared at the highest temperature eclosed at the smallest body size and had the smallest absolute and relative testes size. Males reared at both the high- and low-temperature extremes produced both fewer and smaller sperm than males reared at intermediate temperatures. In the absence of sperm competition, developmental temperature had no effect on male fertility. However, under conditions of sperm competition, males reared at either temperature extreme were less competitive in terms of sperm offence (P2), whereas those reared at the lowest temperature were less competitive in terms of sperm defence (P1). This suggests the developmental pathways that regulate the phenotypic expression of these ejaculatory traits are subject to both natural and sexual selection: natural selection in the pre-ejaculatory environment and sexual selection in the post-ejaculatory environment. In nature, thermal heterogeneity during development is commonplace. Therefore, we suggest the interplay between ecology and development represents an important, yet hitherto underestimated component of male fitness via post-copulatory sexual selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1811–1818
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number9
Early online date30 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • ontogeny
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • primary reproductive traits
  • reaction norm
  • sexual selection

Cite this