Sperm design and velocity play key roles in influencing sperm performance and, therefore, can determine fertilization success. Several interspecific studies have demonstrated how these features correlate, and it has been hypothesized that selection may drive changes in these sperm traits. Here, we examine the association between sperm design and swimming velocity in a study conducted at an intraspecific level in Iberian red deer (Cervus elaphus hispanicus). We addressed how the structure of different sperm subpopulations, based on sperm morphometry and velocity, are interrelated and, in turn, how they associate with fertility. Our results show that males with high fertility rates have ejaculates with high percentages of spermatozoa exhibiting fast and linear movements and that these are highly correlated with a large proportion of spermatozoa having small and elongated heads. On the other hand, males with low fertility are characterized by a subpopulation structure in which slow and nonlinear as well as small and wide spermatozoa are predominant. These findings provide insight regarding how sperm size and velocity are interrelated and how they both are associated with fertility.
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Vol. 89 • No. 5