Male Sexual Trait Decay in Two Asexual Springtail Populations Follows Neutral Mutation Accumulation Theory

Andries Augustus Kampfraath, Tjeerd Pieter Dudink, Ken Kraaijeveld, Jacintha Ellers, Zaira Valentina Zizzari*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The transition to asexual reproduction is frequent and widespread across the tree of life and constitutes a major life history change. Without sexual reproduction, selection on sexually selected traits is expected to be weaker or absent, allowing the decay and ultimately loss of sexual traits. In this study, we applied an experimental approach to investigate the decay of reproductive traits under asexuality in two asexual populations of the springtail Folsomia candida. Specifically, we compared several key male sexual traits of a sexual population and two distinct parthenogenetic lines. To allow direct comparisons between sexual and asexual individuals we first determined a suite of life history characteristics in the sexual F. candida population, which performs an indirect transfer of sperm packages (spermatophores).To investigate the decay of male sexual traits under asexuality we measured the size of spermatophores, quantified the amount of sperm DNA material, and tested spermatophore attractiveness to females in all three populations. The amount of sperm DNA material in the sperm droplets and the attractiveness of spermatophores were lower in the asexual lines compared to the sexual population. However, the two asexual lines differed in the extent of decay of these traits. Our results are consistent with predictions from neutral mutation accumulation theory, and thus suggest this to be the main evolutionary process underlying the decay of male traits in F. candida.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)285-292
    Number of pages8
    JournalEvolutionary Biology
    Issue number4
    Early online date20 Aug 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


    • Asexuality
    • Collembola
    • Indirect sperm transfer
    • Parthenogenesis
    • Sexual trait decay
    • Spermatophore


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