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Although much attention has been recently directed to sexual selection arising after insemination from sexual promiscuity, little is known about the mechanisms determining reproductive success after insemination, and the way these mechanisms interact with each other and with selective mechanisms occurring before insemination: mate choice and mate acquisition. Here, we briefly review the findings of an on-going study investigating the mechanisms generating variation in reproductive success at both a pre- and a post-insemination stage in the domestic fowl. Female preference consistently favours socially dominant males before and after insemination. However, although social status mediates the number of sperm that a male inseminates into a female, dominant males may inseminate sperm of lower fertilising quality than their subordinates. We argue that mitochondrial genes may contribute to determine sperm quality, and speculate that the maternal control of mitochondrial genes may prevent sexual selection from operating on males, thus explaining both the lack of a positive correlation between social dominance and sperm quality and the maintenance of variation in male quality in the fowl.

Original publication




Journal article


Heredity (Edinb)

Publication Date





112 - 116


Animals, Biological Evolution, Copulation, Female, Fertility, Male, Poultry, Selection, Genetic, Social Dominance, Spermatozoa