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Peloton o Sperm?(5 posts)

Peloton o Sperm?wolfereeno
Jul 16, 2002 1:36 PM

From July 16 NY Times.

Bicycle racers, like the 180 or so professional riders now pedaling toward Paris in the Tour de France, know that there is speed in numbers. A group of racers, organized one after the other like a streamlined train, can always travel faster than one going it alone. That is why solo breakaways, when one rider tries to race clear of the pack, are almost never successful.

The sperm of the common wood mouse seem to have learned the same lesson. Scientists from England, the Czech Republic and Australia report in the journal Nature that these sperm display a remarkable degree of cooperation in their race toward an egg, forming trains of hundreds or even thousands of cells that enable them to go much faster than single cells.

Normally, fertilization is an every-sperm-for-itself thing. In the wood mouse, however, as with other species, females mate frequently with multiple partners, so there may be some benefit to cooperation among the sperm from a single mouse, if this gives it a chance to beat its rivals.

This, the researchers say, is apparently the case. A wood mouse sperm has a hooklike appendage on its head that can intertwine with a neighbor's hook, or grab hold of its tail (the flagellum). In this way sperm can form long chains, and the researchers found that chains were much more motile than single sperm, traveling about twice as fast.

Of course, a thousand sperm cannot all fertilize the egg. So near the end of the journey, many of the sperm commit a sort of suicide, undergoing an enzymatic reaction that breaks up the train but also makes fertilization impossible. At least one healthy sperm must remain, however, to win the prize.

I always wondered about that. nmhayaku
Jul 16, 2002 11:04 PM
re: Peloton o Sperm?tmotz
Jul 17, 2002 2:46 AM
Some people have just to much free time.
No wonder the urge to win is so strong. (nm)shirt
Jul 17, 2002 2:29 PM
Ironically, LA is king of the sperm (nm)biknben
Jul 17, 2002 4:08 PM
Nothing to see here.