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March 20, 2010

Sperm of ants battle inside the queens

Queens of ants & bees normally obtain a lifetime supply of sperm on a single day of sexual activity, & sperm competition is expected to occur in lineages where queens receive sperm from multiple males. Now, a new research has shown that it's not the males that try to harm each other: it's their ejaculate.
AntsSome female insects, such as honeybees & leafcutter ants, 've sex on only one day in their life. But they mate with multiple males & store enough sperm to fertilise eggs throughout their lives. Now, scientists 've discovered that when honeybees & leafcutter ants inseminate the queen, their seminal fluid is harmful to rival sperm.

In the study, Boris Baer of the University of Western Australia & colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, exposed the sperm of honeybees & leafcutter ants to their own seminal fluid, & the secretions of other males of the same species.

The seminal fluid killed more than 50% of the rival sperm within 15 minutes.
"We basically show that there are two wars going on at the same time", says Dr Baer. "The males seemed to use the seminal fluid to harm the sperm," New Scientist quoted Baer.

The researchers also found that females put up a fight to save the sperm inside them. Baer & colleagues found that queen leafcutter ants can chose to secrete a fluid that protects sperm from the damaging effects of seminal fluid from rival males. The study has been published in the Journal Science.

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