Austin Jeffery, Michael Pham, Todd Shackelford and Bernhard Fink

Does human ejaculate quality relate to phenotypic traits?

American Journal of Human Biology

A given man's phenotype embodies cues of his ancestral ability to effectively defend himself and his kin from harm, to survive adverse conditions, and to acquire status and mating opportunities. In this review, we explore the hypothesis that a man's phenotype also embodies cues to fertility or the probability that an ejaculate will fertilize ova. Female mate choice depends on the ability to discern the quality of a male reproductive partner through his phenotype, and male fertility may be among the traits that females have evolved to detect. A female who selects as mates males that deliver higher quality ejaculates will, on average, be more fecund than her competitors. Data on several non-human species demonstrate correlations between ejaculate quality and secondary sexual characteristics that inform female mate choice, suggesting that females may select mates in part on the basis of fertility. While the non-human literature on this topic has advanced, the human literature remains limited in scope and there is no clear consensus on appropriate methodologies or theoretical positions. We provide a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of this literature, and conclude by proposing solutions to the many issues that impede progress in the field. In the process, we hope to encourage interest and insight from investigators in other areas of human mating and reproductive biology.