Sperm of ants battle inside the queens

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London, March 19 (ANI): Queens of ants and bees normally obtain a lifetime supply of sperm on a single day of sexual activity, and 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.

Some female insects, such as honeybees and leafcutter ants, have sex on only one day in their life. But they mate with multiple males and store enough sperm to fertilise eggs throughout their lives.

Now, scientists have discovered that when honeybees and leafcutter ants inseminate the queen, their seminal fluid is harmful to rival sperm.

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

The seminal fluid killed more than 50 per cent of the rival sperm within 15 minutes.

"The males seemed to use the seminal fluid to harm the sperm," New Scientist quoted Baer as aying.

The researchers also found that females put up a fight to save the sperm inside them. Baer and 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. (ANI)

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