A major issue for many earth species is finding a mate when you need one. This problem is particularly acute for species that live in sparse environments (e.g., deep sea benthic zone) and those that are naturally antisocial (e.g., many spiders, slugs, etc.). This is solved by some species using one of two strategies:
- The female stores sperm from any encounter until she has eggs ready
- The (much smaller) male permanently attaches to the female and serves as her sperm supply when needed
I want to combine these strategies
When a male and female meet, and assuming the female judges the male acceptable, they mate in a manner appropriate to the species but instead of providing a supply of sperm, the male detaches a gonad and transfers it to the female. This free-floating male gonad then implants in the female’s body. Over time, the female may mate with multiple males. Each time she gains another male gonad for her “collection”.
When the conditions are right, the female matures an egg (I’m using singular here for convenience but for many/most species it will be more than one). Her body also sends a hormonal signal telling each of the male gonads in her collection to prepare sperm. The egg and sperm are released into the uterus together; one sperm gets lucky, and the rest is obvious.
One problem is that each male will have an incentive to make sure its sperm is the one that connects. This will lead to various strategies to exclude the competition.
The male gonad could release some sort of hormone or other chemical that prevents subsequent gonads from implanting. The female would have to evolve a mechanism to identify the offending gonad (chemical concentration sensing?) and destroy it (immune response?). This would be most effective if the gonads are housed outside of the uterus and release sperm into the equivalent of the epididymis.
Alternatively, the male gonad could attempt to grow so large no other gonads fit. But this seems easily dealt with either by resource restriction or, again, an immune response.
A male could also transfer multiple gonads but gonads are a lot larger and more complex than sperm so I’m thinking that would be too costly a strategy to make any sense.
Could this plausibly work?
I can’t see any other obvious problems or evolutionary pressures that would prevent this from arising or push for its elimination but feel free to point out anything I’m missing.