Sperm competition drives the evolution of suicidal reproduction in mammals

Fisher, Diana O., Dickman, Christopher R., Jones, Menna E. and Blomberg, Simon P. (2013) Sperm competition drives the evolution of suicidal reproduction in mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 44: 17910-17914. doi:10.1073/pnas.1310691110


Author Fisher, Diana O.
Dickman, Christopher R.
Jones, Menna E.
Blomberg, Simon P.
Title Sperm competition drives the evolution of suicidal reproduction in mammals
Journal name Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0027-8424
1091-6490
Publication date 2013-10-29
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1310691110
Volume 110
Issue 44
Start page 17910
End page 17914
Total pages 5
Place of publication Washington, DC 20001 United States
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Subject 1000 General
Abstract Suicidal reproduction (semelparity) has evolved in only four genera of mammals. In these insectivorous marsupials, all males die after mating, when failure of the corticosteroid feedback mechanism elevates stress hormone levels during the mating season and causes lethal immune system collapse (die-off). We quantitatively test and resolve the evolutionary causes of this surprising and extreme life history strategy. We show that as marsupial predators in Australia, South America, and Papua New Guinea diversified into higher latitudes, seasonal predictability in abundance of their arthropod prey increased in multiple habitats. More-predictable prey peaks were associated with shorter annual breeding seasons, consistent with the suggestion that females accrue fitness benefits by timing peak energy demands of reproduction to coincide with maximum food abundance. We demonstrate that short mating seasons intensified reproductive competition between males, increasing male energy investment in copulations and reducing male postmating survival. However, predictability of annual prey cycles alone does not explain suicidal reproduction, because unlike insect abundance, peak ovulation dates in semelparous species are often synchronized to the day among years, triggered by a species-specific rate of change of photoperiod. Among species with low postmating male survival, we show that those with suicidal reproduction have shorter mating seasons and larger testes relative to body size. This indicates that lethal effort is adaptive in males because females escalate sperm competition by further shortening and synchronizing the annual mating period and mating promiscuously. We conclude that precopulatory sexual selection by females favored the evolution of suicidal reproduction in mammals.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
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