Sperm length is highly variable, both between and within species, but the evolutionary significance of this variation is poorly understood. Sexual selection on sperm length requires a significant additive genetic variance, but few studies have actually measured this. Here we present the first estimates of narrow sense heritability of sperm length in a social insect, the bumblebee Bombus terrestris. In spite of a balanced and straightforward rearing design of colonies, and the possibility to replicate measurements of sperm within single males nested within colonies, the analysis proved to be complex. Several appropriate statistical models were derived, each depending on different assumptions. The heritability estimates obtained ranged from h (2) = 0.197 +/- 0.091 to h (2) = 0.429 +/- 0.154. All our estimates were substantially lower than previous estimates of sperm length heritability in non-social insects and vertebrates.
Keywords: Analysis of Variance; Animals; Bees; Body Size; Female; Genetic Variation; Male; Models, Genetic; Quantitative Trait, Heritable; Selection (Genetics); Spermatozoa