The prevailing viewpoint in the study of sperm competition is that male sperm-allocation strategies evolve in response to the degree of sperm competition an ejaculate can expect to experience within a given mating. If males cannot assess the degree of sperm competition their ejaculate will face and/or they are unable to facultatively adjust sperm investment in response to perceived levels of competition, high sperm allocation (per mating) is predicted to evolve in the context of high sperm competition. An implicit assumption of the framework used to derive this result is that the degree of sperm competition is unaffected by changes in sperm-allocation strategies. We present theory based on an alternative perspective, in which the degree of sperm competition and the sperm-allocation strategy are coupled traits that coevolve together. Our rationale is that the pattern of sperm allocation in the population will, in part, determine the level of sperm competition by affecting the number of ejaculates per female in the population. In this setting, evolution in sperm-allocation strategies is driven by changes in underlying environmental parameters that influence both the degree of sperm competition and sperm allocation. This change in perspective leads to predictions that are qualitatively different from those of previous theory.
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Vol. 59 • No. 3