How many hermaphrodites will a single male mate with successfully?

How many hermaphrodites will a single hermaphrodite mate with successfully? Say if there is a population of 100 synchronous animals from L1 onward and 1 animals is a male.
I realize that the male may try to mate unsuccessfully more then once, but how successful would it be (on average)? If you know a specific reference, please post that too.
Thanks in advance and happy worming! :slight_smile:

Fixed that for you.

Probably no specific reference for this exact question, but it would be fun if we could pose questions like this and ask members of the forum to try and answer them experimentally…I think it’d be fun. Any takers for the challenge?

I’d imagine it’d be ridiculously hard to test this with exactly 99 hermaphrodites and 1 male, as you need to identify that L1 male with high mag DIC (I am no expert on larval males, maybe you can use a marker). Then, I guess you could use fer-1(hc1) hermaphrodites and observe the number of ‘females’ that have fertilized eggs…

I guess you could extrapolate the data from Jonathan Hodgkin’s (excuse the pun) seminal paper on male mating efficiency:

with the caveat that he was testing mutant males. The mating efficiency seemed to be relatively robust!


I feel you’re letting the side down if you link to Hodgkin on maximal male mating capability and don’t link to the Worm Breeder’s Gazette article that features Mr. Vigorous and describes his memorialization.

Excellent find! I wonder if the Stanford males (including Mr. Vigorous) were more successful than the Bristol guys because they were less distracted from the job at hand by requests for a candlelit dinner, bunches of flowers or having to say how good the hermaphrodite looked in her new dress?

Quite robust indeed, haha! Also, RIP Mr. Vigorous. Great WBG article, Hillel, and I guess you could extrapolate data from that to answer the original question.
What are the chances though that the male mates with the same hermaphrodite multiple times in a population of 100? Will the male preferentially choose the unmated hermaphrodites on the plate?

The probability of multiple matings could be calculated if mate selection were random, but it’s not. Maureen Barr demonstrated that the presence/absence of sperm in the hermaphrodite affects sexual attraction:


I suppose it’s only fair to note that the CB4855 strain that produced Mr. Vigorous was later discovered to have a naturally occurring glp-1(gf) mutation resulting in the production of extra functional germ cells. It’s still a wild isolate, and as the question is more about behavior than about the germline I’m not sure how relevant this is - but the reason (one reason?) CB4855 males produce far more cross-progeny than N2 males is known.


It has been pointed out to me that I suffered from a misunderstanding of the origin of this glp-1(gf) mutation backed up by my sloppy (and hasty) misreading of the linked paper; this is not a naturally occurring mutation explaining Mr. Vigorous but rather an EMS-induced mutation. The question of Mr. Vigorous’s exceptional fecundity remains unexplained.