Ejaculates function as an integrated unit to ensure male fertility and paternity, can have a complex structure, and can experience multiple episodes of selection. Current studies on the evolution of ejaculates typically focus on phenotypic variation in sperm number, size, or related traits such as testes size as adaptations to postcopulatory male-male competition. However, the evolution of the integrated nature of ejaculate structure and function depends on genetic variation in and covariation between the component parts. Here we report a quantitative genetic study of the components of the ejaculate of the cockroach Nauphoeta cinerea, including those we know to experience postcopulatory sexual selection, in the context of functional integration of ejaculate characters. We use the patterns of genetic variation and covariation to infer how the integration of the functions of the ejaculate constrain and shape its evolution. Ejaculate components were highly variable, showed significant additive genetic variance, and moderate to high evolvability. The level of genetic variation in these characters, despite strong directional or truncating selection, may reflect the integration of multiple episodes of selection that occur in N. cinerea. There were few significant phenotypic correlations, but all the genetic correlations among ejaculate characters were significantly different from zero. The patterns of genetic variation and covariation suggest that there are important trade-offs among individual traits of the ejaculate and that evolution of ejaculate characteristics will not proceed unconstrained. Fully describing the genetic relationships among traits that perform as an integrated unit helps us understand how functional relationships constrain or facilitate the evolution of the complex structure that is the ejaculate.
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Vol. 58 • No. 8