Attractive males release fewer sperm per mating to maximise their chances of producing offspring across a range of females, according to a new paper on the evolution of ejaculation strategies. The findings by researchers at UCL (University College London) and the University of Oxford suggest that, paradoxically, matings with attractive males may be less fertile than those with unattractive ones.
How a male negotiates this trade-off depends on how easy he finds it to attract females. The more attractive a male is, the more females will be willing to mate with him, reducing the value of each mating to him. This means it is optimal for him to contribute fewer sperm per mating. Although this reduces fertility per mating, it maximises the number of offspring he sires overall. Less attractive males secure fewer matings but value each of them more highly, and by allocating more sperm to each mating make the most of their meagre opportunities. This leads to the rather paradoxical prediction that matings with attractive males may be less fertile than those with unattractive males.
Further work in this area should look at males that are similarly attractive, but have different levels of resources to allocate to sperm production, to see how this alters their sperm number and quality...