Sperm competition affects male behaviour and sperm output in the rainbow darter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rainbow darters, Etheostoma caeruleum, are promiscuous fish with moderate rates of group spawning (between one and five males may simultaneously mate with one female). In this study, I examined male sperm output and male willingness to spawn under different levels of sperm competition intensity. One male and one female were allowed to spawn in an aquarium where they had visual and olfactory access to one of four treatments: four males, one male, zero males, or one female. Theory predicts that males should reduce sperm output when there are more than the average number of males at a group spawning (four-male treatment) and should increase sperm output when there are fewer than average males at a group spawning (one-male treatment). Mean sperm output did not differ among treatments. However, males released more sperm when spawning in the presence of competing males (four-male and one-male treatments pooled) than when spawning in the absence of competing males (zero-male and one-female treatments pooled). Males were also most likely to forego spawning opportunities when sperm competition intensity was high. Furthermore, male willingness to spawn was size dependent. Large males were more likely to forego spawning opportunities under high sperm competition intensity. Large males may be better off waiting for future spawning opportunities when there is a lower potential for sperm competition intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2365-2371
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1413
StatePublished - Dec 22 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Alternative mating strategies
  • Etheostoma caeruleum
  • Group spawning
  • Sneaky mating behaviour
  • Willingness to spawn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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