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Towards an evolutionary ecology of spermatogenesis (SPERM EVOLUTION)
Start date: Sep 1, 2012, End date: Mar 31, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"The essentials of sperm function differ little from one species to another, and yet there is tremendous diversity among species in the type and number of sperm a male produces. My research programme aims to understand how these traits, which are fundamental to male fertility, evolve. Specifically, I aim to identify selective forces acting on sperm, spermatogenesis and the testis, and adopt a multidisciplinary approach to test the working hypothesis that post-copulatory sexual selection has been a major force during sperm and testis evolution. Such a research programme is needed, because evolutionary biologists have traditionally treated the testis as a “black box” (ignoring the details of its function) whereas more clinically-orientated research has usually not considered how evolutionary history shapes the complex machinery of spermatogenesis. The time is ripe for a more integrative programme.In this project, I will build on recent progress to develop Macrostomum flatworms as a model system for studying the evolutionary biology of sperm, spermatogenesis and the testis. By in-depth studies of two closely related flatworm species, and comparative studies incorporating additional species, I will focus on testing how two radically different fertilization mechanisms affect the evolution of male reproductive function. The project will provide crucial information on the genetic architecture of sperm traits; on plasticity in sperm traits; and on how post-copulatory sexual selection shapes male reproductive phenotypes beyond gross testis size.The results of the project will begin to build a more complete “evolutionary ecology of spermatogenesis”, with wide implications for our understanding of the male gamete and its production by the testis; thus they will be applicable both to the immediate field of evolutionary biology, and to related areas of biomedical and clinical research."
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