Glow in the Dark Sperm.org —
Science best done in the dark.
“The field of postcopulatory sexual selection was crying out for new methods that would allow us to directly visualize sperm interacting with one another and with the female reproductive tract. Decades of measuring patterns of paternity taught us little about the selective process, or even the strength of sexual selection. And it certainly didn’t encourage more active pursuit of the female contribution to reproductive outcomes. To move things forward, we needed to understand mechanisms and identify the sex-specific targets of selection. The holy grail was a means to observe sperm within their natural, selective environment, while discriminating among sperm from competing males. Thanks, John. It’s been a privilege doing science with your lines. And I know of at least 60 laboratories around the globe that feel the same way.”
“The study of sperm competition has now matured into a broad and diverse field, and it seems the road to further enlightenment is via fluorescently labelled sperm.”
—David Hosken – Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, UK
In: Sperm competition: discrimination isn’t always bad. Current Biology 20:R444 (2011)
“Pitnick and his colleagues describe an extraordinary way of viewing internal processes, as they are played out within the female tract… Building on their success in Drosophila, the team is applying their approach to other insect model systems to lift the lid on the fate that befalls sperm once they enter the female. Such direct investigation could herald a golden age in the study of sexual selection, as we can at last witness sperm cells skirmishing from front row seats in real time.”
—Oliver Yves Martin – Institut f. Integrative Biologie, Zurich, Switzerland
In: Sperm wars: the movie. Journal of Experimental Biology 10.1242/jeb.036715 (2010)
“With styling cues from Steve Jobs and Santa Claus, Belote and Pitnick built transgenic flies… As often occurs when a new window into biology is opened, an unexpected complexity of events and behaviours have been revealed… a new phase of discovery and integration has begun for the dynamics of postcopulatory sexual selection. Casting a fluorescent glow upon processes that were previously hidden in a black box has added deeper understanding to the processes by which new species form.”
—Adam Chippindale – Department of Biology, Queens University, Canada
In: Sperm, cryptic choice and the origin of species. Current Biology 23:R855 (2013)
Engineering a brighter reproductive future.