Temporal dynamics of competitive fertilization in social groups of red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) shed new light on avian sperm competition

Rômulo Carleial, Grant C. McDonald, Lewis G. Spurgin, Eleanor A. Fairfield, Yunke Wang, David S. Richardson, Tommaso Pizzari

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Studies of birds have made a fundamental contribution to elucidating sperm competition processes, experimentally demonstrating the role of individual mechanisms in competitive fertilization. However, the relative importance of these mechanisms and the way in which they interact under natural conditions remain largely unexplored. Here, we conduct a detailed behavioural study of freely mating replicate groups of red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, to predict the probability that competing males fertilize individual eggs over the course of 10-day trials. Remating frequently with a female and mating last increased a male's probability of fertilization, but only for eggs ovulated in the last days of a trial. Conversely, older males, and those mating with more polyandrous females, had consistently lower fertilization success. Similarly, resistance to a male's mating attempts, particularly by younger females, reduced fertilization probability. After considering these factors, male social status, partner relatedness and the estimated state of male extragonadal sperm reserves did not predict sperm competition outcomes. These results shed new light on sperm competition dynamics in taxa such as birds, with prolonged female sperm storage and staggered fertilizations. This article is part of the theme issue 'Fifty years of sperm competition'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200081
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1813
Early online date19 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


  • mating order
  • passive sperm loss
  • paternity share
  • post-copulatory sexual selection
  • remating rates
  • reproductive senescence

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