Project properties

Title Sperm biology and evolution
Group Behavioural Ecology
Project type thesis
Credits 33-36
Supervisor(s) Dr. Melissah Rowe (NIOO-KNAW)
Examiner(s) Prof. Dr. Kees van Oers
Contact info
Begin date 2020/09/01
End date 2024/12/31
Description General background
Sperm are critical to successful fertilisation in sexually reproducing animals. The function of sperm � to find and fertilise ova � is universal throughout the animal kingdom, yet the sperm cell is the most morphologically diverse cell type known. Sperm morphology varies across species, among-populations of the same species, among-males in the same populations, and even between- and within-ejaculates of a single male. This diversity has intrigued sperm biologists for decades and has generated numerous questions. For instance, what factors generate this morphological diversity? What is the molecular basis of sperm phenotypic variation? What are the consequences of morphological variation for sperm function? Are particular sperm phenotypes more successful at fertilising ova? Do sperm play a role in speciation? These questions, and more, remain to be answered.
Project Outline
There are a broad range of project opportunities available to students.
Most immediately, these include projects that can take advantage of previously collected samples and data that can be analysed to answer a range of research questions. For example, questions concerning the relationship between sperm phenotype and reproductive success, or the role of post-copulatory sexual selection on sperm evolution in different avian clades, could be addressed with existing data. Furthermore, there may be opportunities to combine such a project with field work and sample collection at a later date (depending upon the duration and timing of the project).
Additionally, just prior to or during the breeding season (approx. April-June), projects focused on questions related to sperm biology and evolution, sperm competition, or avian reproductive biology and behaviour, can be developed in collaboration with the PI. Thus, we encourage anyone interested in the topics of sexual selection, sperm competition, and sperm biology to get in contact to discuss opportunities.
Birds are our primary study system, but we are happy to discuss possibilities with other taxa.
Used skills
Requirements Behavioural Ecology MSc