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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Evolution of testicular architecture in the Drosophilidae: A role for sperm length

Lukas Schärer13*, Jean-Luc Da Lage2 and Dominique Joly2

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Ultrastructural Research and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Zoology, University of Innsbruck, Technikerstrasse 25, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria

2 Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes et Spéciation, CNRS – UPR 9034, bat 13, Avenue de la Terrasse, 91198 Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France

3 Evolutionary Biology, Zoological Institute, University of Basel, Vesalgasse 1, 4051, Basel, Switzerland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:143  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-143

Published: 13 May 2008



Evolutionary biologists have so far largely treated the testis as a black box with a certain size, a matching resource demand and a resulting sperm output. A better understanding of the way that the testis responds to selection may come from recent developments in theoretical biology aimed at understanding the factors that influence the evolution of tissue architecture (i.e. the logical organisation of a tissue). Here we perform a comparative analysis of aspects of testicular architecture of the fruit fly family Drosophilidae. Specifically, we collect published information on the number of first (or primary) spermatocytes in spermatogenesis, which allows to infer an important aspect of testicular architecture.


We show that testicular architecture is much more variable (both within and between species) than is generally appreciated. Moreover, the number of first spermatocytes is strongly correlated to the sperm length, which is inversely related to the sperm production, and thus the workload of the testis.


Our study clearly documents that tissue architecture can evolve, and that in the Drosophilidae it may do so in response to sexual selection. We conclude that the testis of the Drosophilidae is a promising model organ to test recent models of tissue architecture.