Male guppies are able to reproduce for at least 10 months after they die, according to new research conducted by the University of California, Riverside.
That’s because female guppies have the ability to store sperm inside their bodies, saving it up until the optimal time for fertilization. Since female guppies typically live much longer than males — 2 years as compared to 3-4 months — this means that male guppies can continue to impregnate females long after their deaths.
Long-term sperm storage provides several benefits for guppy survival.
“Adult female guppies are the strongest swimmers and now we know they are the best able to colonize new habitats,” Reznick told UCR Today. “Long term sperm storage means that a single female can colonize a new site and establish a new population that has a fair measure of genetic diversity since we have found that the older, larger females can carry the sperm of several males.”
Scientists already knew that females could store sperm, according to Science Daily, but this study provides new insight on just how long that storage can last.
“In addition to learning about sperm storage, this is the first time we are learning about the huge differences in lifespan between males and females,” UCR biology professor David Reznick told UCR Today. “If we were to use males to estimate generation time, then these differences mean that lucky females live for three generations.”
Research did not monitor sperm storage for longer than 10 months, according to an abstract of the study. This means that females may be able to store sperm for even longer, though additional research would be needed to determine just how long.
Guppies have been swimming through the headlines a lot lately. In February, British researches discovered that female guppies will make friends with less attractive females in order to make themselves look more desirable by comparison.
The month before, researchers found that the reverse is also true: When female guppies are not receptive to mating, they will spend time with “sexier” females so that those females detract unwanted attention away from them.