Every year since 2013, the Division of Ecology and Evolution (DEE) hosts the Huey Award Symposium at the annual SICB meeting. The Huey award is given for the best student presentation in DEE, in honor of Ray Huey, professor emeritus at the University of Washington. Ray’s career featured a lot of key research on anoles, and so there is often good representation by anole biologists at the Huey award. At this year’s symposium, Ariel Kahrl, a graduate student in Bob Cox’s lab at the University of Virginia, presented her research on pre- and postcopulatory selection in Anolis lizards.
We know that male competition for mates occurs both before copulation (mating success) and after copulation (sperm competition). Her research focuses on investigating the evolutionary connection between these two phases of competition. She found that larger males have smaller relative testis size, indicating a tradeoff between pre- and postcopulatory success, as larger males will have better success gaining access to females, but less sperm available for mating.
When she looked at testis and sperm morphology in greater detail, a few interesting patterns emerged. First, she found that testis size evolves faster than body size, consistent with other studies showing that reproductive organs evolve faster than other body traits. She also found that the midpiece section evolved faster than the head and the tail of the sperm. Importantly, the midpiece section of the sperm was strongly associated with male condition and sperm swimming speed, whereas the head and tail of the sperm were not associated with male condition or sperm swimming performance. She further hypothesized that sperm count may be a more important target of selection than sperm morphology.