Social dominance explains within-ejaculate variation in sperm design in a passerine bird
Numerous reports were devoted to the variation of sperm length in relation to sperm competition amongst species. However, studies on intraspecific variations of sperm size are very scarce and the number of sperm measured, very limited. This paper investigates within-individual, between-individual and between-population variation of sperm length in the two cosmopolitan species, D. simulans and D. melanogaster. Sperm length distributions are completely discriminated against with these two species, with the mean values equal to 1.121 ± 0.002 and 1.989 ± 0.008 mm, respectively. Results of intraspecific variation show a contrasting pattern between the two species. The mode of sperm length distributions is much less variable in D. simulans than in D. melanogaster. The sperm size divergence is unaffected whenever the two species are in sympatry (tested at ‘Evolution Canyon’, Mount Carmel, Israel) or in allopatry, but the two species react differentially to abiotic local factors. D. melanogaster, in contrast to D. simulans, shows a clinal pattern in sperm size associated with drought. We discussed this pattern in relation to the potential role of sperm length in the ongoing process of non-random mating and incipient sympatric speciation observed in this locality in D. melanogaster.