Tail on the gamete can measure about 20 times the male’s body length
S. Lüpold et al/Nature 2016
Forget it, peacocks. Nice try, elk. Sure, sexy feathers and antlers are showy, but the sperm of a fruit fly could be the most over-the-top, exaggerated male ornamentation of all.
In certain fruit fly species, such as Drosophila bifurca, males measuring just a few millimeters produce sperm with a tail as long as 5.8-centimeters, researchers report May 26 in Nature. Adjusted for body size, the disproportionately supersized sperm outdoes such exuberant body parts as pheasant display feathers, deer antlers, scarab beetle horns and the forward-grasping forceps of earwigs.
Fruit flies’ giant sperm have been challenging to explain, says study coauthor Scott Pitnick of Syracuse University in New York.
Now he and his colleagues propose that a complex interplay of male and female benefits has accelerated sperm length in a runaway-train scenario.
Males with longer sperm deliver fewer sperm, bucking a more-is-better trend. Yet, they still manage