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Numbers and size of sperm storage tubules and the duration of sperm storage in birds: a comparative study

Birkhead, T. R., Moller, A. P.
Biological journal of the Linnean Society 1992 v.45 no.4 pp. 363-372
birds, clutch size, equations, insemination, regression analysis, spermatozoa, storage time
Estimates of the numbers of sperm storage tubules (SSTs) in the utero-vaginal junction of 11 bird species are presented. Numbers of SSTs varied by a factor of 40 between species, and ranged from 500 to 20000. Body mass accounted for over 50% of the variation in SST mumbers. SST length was positively correlated with the length of spermatozoa across species. The duration of sperm storage was not correlated with the number of SSTs or the volume of sperm storage tissue. However, the number of ‘active’ SSTs appears to vary between species and it was not possible to make allowance for this. Sperm storage duration was weakly, positively correlated wth clutch size, but showed a significant positive relationship with the number of days over which laying occurred. The number of SSTs was also positively correlated with the number of sperm per ejaculate. The best predictor of sperm storage duration was a multiple regression equation using the spread of laying and the length of sperm storage tubules. The duration of sperm storage in birds which remain together during the pre-laying period is such that a single insemination immediately before the start of laying could fertilize the entire clutch.