No evidence for offspring sex-ratio adjustment to social or environmental conditions in cooperatively breeding purple-crowned fairy-wrens

Sjouke Kingma, Michelle Hall, Anne Peters

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19 Citations (Scopus)


When fitness returns or production costs vary between male and female offspring, selection is expected to favor females that adjust offspring sex ratio accordingly. However, to what extent vertebrates can do so is the subject of ongoing debate. Here, we explore primary sex ratios in 125 broods of cooperatively breeding purple-crowned fairy-wrens Malurus coronatus. We expected that females might adjust offspring sex ratio because this passerine species experiences considerable variation in social and environmental conditions. (1) However, although helpers substantially increase parental fitness, females (particularly in pairs and small groups) did not overproduce philopatric males (helper-repayment hypothesis). (2) Sex-ratio adjustment based on competition among individuals (helper-competition hypothesis) did not conceal helper-repayment effects or drive sex allocation on its own: while high-quality territories can accommodate more birds, brood sex ratios were independent of territory quality, alone or in interaction with group size. (3) Additionally, males are larger than females and are possibly more costly to produce (costly sex hypothesis), and (4) female offspring may benefit more from long-term effects of favorable conditions early in life (Triversa??Willard hypothesis). Nonetheless, large seasonal variation in food abundance was not associated with a consistent skew in primary sex ratios. Thus, overall, our results did not support the main hypotheses of adaptive sex-ratio adjustment in M. coronatus. We discuss that long-term differential costs and benefits may be insufficient to drive evolution of primary sex-ratio manipulation by M. coronatus females. More investigation is therefore needed to determine the general required sex differences in long-term fitness returns for mechanisms of primary sex-ratio manipulation to evolve.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203 - 1213
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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