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Uglier Fish Have Better Sperm

Uglier Fish Have Better Sperm

If Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were guppies instead of people, they may have had to adopt. That’s according to new research reported by the BBC, which has shown that the most attractive male tropical guppies tend to have less competitive sperm.

Popular among aquarium owners because of their vibrant colors, guppies are flamboyant fish which engage in a very peculiar evolutionary drama. Australian researchers have revealed that less attractive male guppies have “better sperm” than their more dashing counterparts, suggesting that, for these fish at least, there is a biological trade off between attractiveness and sperm quality.

While some male guppies invest more heavily in their appearance with the hope of attracting more mates, other male guppies invest in spawning faster swimming sperm. According to Professor Jonathan Evans from the University of Western Australia, who carried out the study, the findings support “sperm competition theory”.

Originally proposed by British biologist Geoffrey Parker, sperm competition theory is defined as the “competition between sperm of two or more males for the fertilization of an ovum.” In the case of guppies, less attractive males who are unable to attract a mate typically try to compensate by performing non-consensual “sneak” matings. They gain an advantage over their flaunty competitors because their sperm is superior.

“Males that predominantly performed sneak matings were less ornamented but had faster swimming sperm than those that predominantly used courtship,” explained Evans. “The reproductive advantage enjoyed by attractive males might potentially be offset by the poor performance of their ejaculates during sperm competition.”

Read more: Nature, Nature & Wildlife, , , , ,

By Bryan Nelson, MNN

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Megan, selected from Mother Nature Network

Mother Nature Network's mission is to help you improve your world. From covering the latest news on health, science, sustainable business practices and the latest trends in eco-friendly technology, MNN.com strives to give you the accurate, unbiased information you need to improve your world locally, globally, and personally all in a distinctive thoughtful, straightforward, and fun style.

47 comments

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5:59AM PDT on Sep 8, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:20PM PDT on Jul 10, 2011

Interesting!

7:29AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

It's no surprise; like with humans, the "pretty" ones tend to be higher maintenance with less substance (I'm generalizing based on experience) while the average person is more well-rounded (no pun intended). The less attractive tend to overcompensate to compete with the dating market. There is a song that says that if you want to be happy for the rest of your life ask an ugly girl to marry you (because they will do whatever makes you happy because you chose them). I know it's an exagerration but everything springs up from something...

4:31PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Thanks for article.

9:08AM PDT on May 23, 2011

How interesting!

12:58AM PDT on May 21, 2011

Thanks for the article.

7:05AM PDT on Oct 14, 2010

Interesting!

8:12AM PDT on Oct 5, 2010

Interesting! these fish have been hybridized to death. Some of the males can barely swim because of excessive finnage. I wonder if they took that into consideration?
The females also have prolapsed uterus problems more often. I am not sure if they call it a uterus in a fish but just to explain.
It is probably because these fish evolved faster than nature would ever have allowed. Back to the basics is best.

6:28AM PDT on Jun 21, 2010

Who thought to "research" this in the first place?

10:13AM PDT on Jun 19, 2010

Hilarious Megan! Lol!

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