Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Sperm Cells Demonstrate Some Brotherly Solidarity

By Maia WeinstockOctober 1, 2002 5:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

When sperm cells race to the grand prize of an unfertilized egg, the rule is always "every man for himself"—or so biologists have assumed. But Harry Moore of the University of Sheffield in England reports that the sperm of the European wood mouse actually collaborate, linking together into a cluster to speed the trip to an egg. Traveling in a bundle of hundreds or thousands of cells appears to offer an aerodynamic edge: Moore has shown that sperm swimming together reach an egg almost twice as fast as those that go solo. He and his colleagues also find that certain sperm in each cluster are preprogrammed to sacrifice themselves, giving up their adhesion molecules (which are essential for egg penetration) to help break up the sperm cluster when it approaches an egg. The discovery is the first major evidence of altruism among mammalian sperm, but there may still be competition in the behavior. In female wood mice who mate with more than one partner, for example, the true test may be which animal's sperm can build the better cluster, rather than which one has the fastest or strongest individual cells.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In