Sex ratio effects on reproductive strategies in humans.
ABSTRACT: Characterizations of coy females and ardent males are rooted in models of sexual selection that are increasingly outdated. Evolutionary feedbacks can strongly influence the sex roles and subsequent patterns of sex differentiated investment in mating effort, with a key component being the adult sex ratio (ASR). Using data from eight Makushi communities of southern Guyana, characterized by varying ASRs contingent on migration, we show that even within a single ethnic group, male mating effort varies in predictable ways with the ASR. At male-biased sex ratios, men's and women's investment in mating effort are indistinguishable; only when men are in the minority are they more inclined towards short-term, low investment relationships than women. Our results support the behavioural ecological tenet that reproductive strategies are predictable and contingent on varying situational factors.
Project description:Sex-biased dispersal is common in vertebrates, although the ecological and evolutionary causes of sex differences in dispersal are debated. Here, we investigate sex differences in both natal and breeding dispersal distances using a large dataset on birds including 86 species from 41 families. Using phylogenetic comparative analyses, we investigate whether sex-biased natal and breeding dispersal are associated with sexual selection, parental sex roles, adult sex ratio (ASR), or adult mortality. We show that neither the intensity of sexual selection, nor the extent of sex bias in parental care was associated with sex-biased natal or breeding dispersal. However, breeding dispersal was related to the social environment since male-biased ASRs were associated with female-biased breeding dispersal. Male-biased ASRs were associated with female-biased breeding dispersal. Sex bias in adult mortality was not consistently related to sex-biased breeding dispersal. These results may indicate that the rare sex has a stronger tendency to disperse in order to find new mating opportunities. Alternatively, higher mortality of the more dispersive sex could account for biased ASRs, although our results do not give a strong support to this explanation. Whichever is the case, our findings improve our understanding of the causes and consequences of sex-biased dispersal. Since the direction of causality is not yet known, we call for future studies to identify the causal relationships linking mortality, dispersal, and ASR.
Project description:The adult sex ratio (ASR) is a fundamental concept in population biology, sexual selection, and social evolution. However, it remains unclear which demographic processes generate ASR variation and how biases in ASR in turn affect social behaviour. Here, we evaluate the demographic mechanisms shaping ASR and their potential consequences for parental cooperation using detailed survival, fecundity, and behavioural data on 6119 individuals from six wild shorebird populations exhibiting flexible parental strategies. We show that these closely related populations express strikingly different ASRs, despite having similar ecologies and life histories, and that ASR variation is largely driven by sex differences in the apparent survival of juveniles. Furthermore, families in populations with biased ASRs were predominantly tended by a single parent, suggesting that parental cooperation breaks down with unbalanced sex ratios. Taken together, our results indicate that sex biases emerging during early life have profound consequences for social behaviour.
Project description:Cooperative breeding is a form of breeding system where in addition to a core breeding pair, one or more usually non-breeding individuals provide offspring care. Cooperative breeding is widespread in birds, but its origin and maintenance in contemporary populations are debated. Although deviations in adult sex ratio (ASR, the proportion of males in the adult population) have been hypothesized to influence the occurrence of cooperative breeding because of the resulting surplus of one sex and limited availability of breeding partners, this hypothesis has not been tested across a wide range of taxa. By using data from 188 bird species and phylogenetically controlled analyses, we show that cooperatively breeding species have more male-biased ASRs than non-cooperative species. Importantly, ASR predicts helper sex ratio: in species with more male-biased ASR, helper sex ratio is also more male biased. We also show that offspring sex ratios do not predict ASRs, so that the skewed ASRs emerge during the period when individuals aim to obtain a breeding position or later during adulthood. In line with this result, we found that ASR (among both cooperatively and non-cooperatively breeding species) is inversely related to sex bias in dispersal distance, suggesting that the cost of dispersal is more severe for the further-dispersing sex. As females usually disperse further in birds, this explains the generally male-biased ASR, and in combination with benefits of philopatry for males, this probably explains why ASR is more biased in cooperatively breeding species. Taken together, our results suggest that a sex bias in helping in cooperatively breeding species relates to biased ASRs. We propose that this relationship is driven by sex-specific costs and benefits of dispersal and helping, as well as other demographic factors. Future phylogenetic comparative and experimental work is needed to establish how this relationship emerges.This article is part of the themed issue 'Adult sex ratios and reproductive decisions: a critical re-examination of sex differences in human and animal societies'.
Project description:The adult sex ratio (ASR) is a crucial component of the ecological and evolutionary forces shaping the dynamics of a population. Although in many declining populations ASRs have been reported to be skewed, empirical studies exploring the demographic factors shaping ASRs are still rare. In this study of the socially monogamous and sexually dimorphic Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa limosa), we aim to evaluate the sex ratio of chicks at hatch and the subsequent sex-specific survival differences occurring over 3 subsequent life stages. We found that, at hatch, the sex ratio did not deviate from parity. However, the survival of pre-fledged females was 15-30% lower than that of males and the sex bias in survival was higher in low-quality habitat. Additionally, survival of adult females was almost 5% lower than that of adult males. Because survival rates of males and females did not differ during other life-history stages, the ASR in the population was biased toward males. Because females are larger than males, food limitations during development or sex-specific differences in the duration of development may explain the lower survival of female chicks. Differences among adults are less obvious and suggest previously unknown sex-related selection pressures. Irrespective of the underlying causes, by reducing the available number of females in this socially monogamous species, a male-biased ASR is likely to contribute to the ongoing decline of the Dutch godwit population.
Project description:Adult sex ratio (ASR) is a central concept in population biology and a key factor in sexual selection, but why do most demographic models ignore sex biases? Vital rates often vary between the sexes and across life history, but their relative contributions to ASR variation remain poorly understood-an essential step to evaluate sex ratio theories in the wild and inform conservation. Here, we combine structured two-sex population models with individual-based mark-recapture data from an intensively monitored polygamous population of snowy plovers. We show that a strongly male-biased ASR (0.63) is primarily driven by sex-specific survival of juveniles rather than adults or dependent offspring. This finding provides empirical support for theories of unbiased sex allocation when sex differences in survival arise after the period of parental investment. Importantly, a conventional model ignoring sex biases significantly overestimated population viability. We suggest that sex-specific population models are essential to understand the population dynamics of sexual organisms: reproduction and population growth are most sensitive to perturbations in survival of the limiting sex. Overall, our study suggests that sex-biased early survival may contribute toward mating system evolution and population persistence, with implications for both sexual selection theory and biodiversity conservation.
Project description:The responsiveness of individuals to partner availability has been well-documented across the literature. However, there is disagreement regarding the direction of the consequences of sex ratio imbalance. Specifically, does an excess of males or females promote male-male mating competition? In an attempt to clarify the role of the adult sex ratio (ASR) on behaviour, here we evaluate both competing and complimentary expectations derived from theory across the social and biological sciences. We use data drawn from a historical, nineteenth century population in North America and target several life-history traits thought to be affected by partner availability: age at first birth, relationship status, completed fertility and longevity. Furthermore, we assess the role of various contributors to a population's ASR. We find that both the contributors to and consequences of sex ratio imbalance vary over time. Our results largely support predictions of greater male pairbond commitment and lesser male mating effort, as well as elevated bargaining power of women in response to female scarcity. After reviewing our findings, and others from across the literature, we highlight the need to adjust predictions in response to ASR imbalance by the: (i) culturally mediated mating arena, (ii) variable role of demographic inputs across time and place, (iii) constraints to behavioural outcomes across populations, and (iv) ability and accuracy of individuals to assess partner availability.This article is part of the themed issue 'Adult sex ratios and reproductive strategies: a critical re-examination of sex differences in human and animal societies'.
Project description:Small populations are susceptible to high genetic loads and random fluctuations in birth and death rates. While these selective forces can adversely affect their viability, small populations persist across taxa. Here, we investigate the resilience of small groups to demographic uncertainty, and specifically to fluctuations in adult sex ratio (ASR), partner availability and dispersal patterns. Using 25 years of demographic data for two Savannah Pumé groups of South American hunter-gatherers, we show that in small human populations: (i) ASRs fluctuate substantially from year to year, but do not consistently trend in a sex-biased direction; (ii) the primary driver of local variation in partner availability is stochasticity in the sex ratio at maturity; and (iii) dispersal outside of the group is an important behavioural means to mediate locally constrained mating options. To then simulate conditions under which dispersal outside of the local group may have evolved, we develop two mathematical models. Model results predict that if the ASR is biased, the globally rarer sex should disperse. The model's utility is then evaluated by applying our empirical data to this central prediction. The results are consistent with the observed hunter-gatherer pattern of variation in the sex that disperses. Together, these findings offer an alternative explanation to resource provisioning for the evolution of traits central to human sociality (e.g. flexible dispersal, bilocal post-marital residence and cooperation across local groups). We argue that in small populations, looking outside of one's local group is necessary to find a mate and that, motivated by ASR imbalance, the alliances formed to facilitate the movement of partners are an important foundation for the human-typical pattern of network formation across local groups.This article is part of the themed issue 'Adult sex ratios and reproductive decisions: a critical re-examination of sex differences in human and animal societies'.
Project description:Evidence from animal species indicates that a male-biased adult sex ratio (ASR) can lead to higher levels of male parental investment and that there is heterogeneity in behavioural responses to mate scarcity depending on mate value. In humans, however, there is little consistent evidence of the effect of the ASR on pair-bond stability and parental investment and even less of how it varies by an individual's mate value. In this paper we use detailed census data from Northern Ireland to test the association between the ASR and pair-bond stability and parental investment by social status (education and social class) as a proxy for mate value. We find evidence that female, but not male, cohabitation is associated with the ASR. In female-biased areas women with low education are less likely to be in a stable pair-bond than highly educated women, but in male-biased areas women with the lowest education are as likely to be in a stable pair-bond as their most highly educated peers. For both sexes risk of separation is greater at female-biased sex ratios. Lastly, our data show a weak relationship between parental investment and the ASR that depends on social class. We discuss these results in the light of recent reformulations of parental investment theory.This article is part of the themed issue 'Adult sex ratios and reproductive decisions: a critical re-examination of sex differences in human and animal societies'.
Project description:Ecological and social factors underpinning the inequality of male mating success in animal societies can be related to sex ratio, sexual conflict between breeders, effects of nonbreeders, resource dispersion, climatic conditions, and the various sequential stages of mating competition that constitute the sexual selection process. Here, we conducted an individual-based study to investigate how local resource availability and demography interact with annual climate conditions to determine the degree of male mating inequality, and thus opportunity for sexual selection across two sequential reproductive episodes (harem and subsequent mate acquisition) in a naturally regulated (feral) horse population in Sable Island National Park Preserve, Canada. Using a 5-year, spatially explicit, mark-resight dataset and hierarchical mixed-effects linear modeling, we evaluated the influence of adult sex ratio (ASR) on mating success and then tested for effects of freshwater availability, density, unpaired male abundance, and precipitation during each breeding season. Unpaired male abundance, freshwater availability, and ASR differed in their effects on male mating success according to year and selection episode. Opportunity for sexual selection in males associated with harem acquisition increased with ASR, and unpaired male abundance further explained weather-related interannual variation after accounting for ASR. In contrast, once a harem was secured, ASR had little effect on male mating inequality in regard to acquiring additional females, while interannual variation in mating inequality increased with decreasing freshwater availability. Our findings show that local demography, resource availability, and weather effect opportunity for sexual selection in males differently depending on selection episode, and can attenuate or accentuate effects of ASR.
Project description:Models suggest that dispersal patterns will influence age- and sex-dependent helping behavior in social species. Duolocal social systems (where neither sex disperses and mating is outside the group) are predicted to be associated with mothers favoring sons over daughters (because the latter are in reproductive competition with each other). Other models predict daughter-biased investment when benefits of wealth to sons are less than daughters. Here, we test whether sex-biased investment is occurring in the duolocal Mosuo of southwestern China. Using demographic and observational data from Mosuo, we show support for both hypotheses, in that 1) males are more likely to disperse from their natal household if their mother dies, but females are not; 2) a large number of brothers increases the likelihood that both females and males disperse, whereas a large number of sisters only increases female dispersal; 3) mothers help daughters reproduce earlier and reduce death risk of daughter's children, but not sons or sons' children; 4) data on multiple paternity show that female reproductive success does not suffer from multiple partners, and in males multiple mates are associated with higher reproductive success, indicating that mothers can benefit from investing in their sons' mating effort; and 5) gift decisions reveal similar kin effects to those shown in the demographic data, with mothers helping adult daughters and adult sons equally, but helping only her daughter's children, not her son's children. Mosuo mothers may invest resources for parental investment in their daughters and their offspring, while investing in their sons mating effort.