Convergent evolution of sperm gigantism and the developmental origins of sperm size variability in Caenorhabditis nematodes

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Anne VielleChristian Braendle


Sperm cells provide crucial, if usually diminutive, ingredients to successful sexual reproduction as the source of centrioles and half the diploid genome. Despite this essential conserved function, sperm competition and coevolution with female traits can drive spectacular change in size and shape of these motile cells. Here we characterize four repeated instances of convergent evolution of sperm gigantism in Caenorhabditis nematodes using phylogenetic comparative methods on 26 species. Species at the extreme end of the 50-fold range of sperm-cell volumes across the genus have sperm capable of comprising up to 5% of egg-cell volume, representing severe attenuation of the magnitude of anisogamy. Exploring potential genetic and developmental determinants of Caenorhabditis sperm size variation, we uncover significant differences in mean and variance of sperm size among genotypes, between sexes of androdioecious species, as well as within and between individuals of identical genotypes. We demonstrate that the developmental basis of sperm size variation, both within and between species, becomes established during an early stage of sperm development, i.e. at the formation of primary spermatocytes while subsequent meiotic divisions con...Continue Reading

Related Concepts

Primary Spermatocyte
Sperm Cell
Sexual Reproduction
Phylogenetic Analysis
Sperm Competition

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