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Biol Lett. 2008 Feb 23;4(1):60-2.

Temperature-related birth sex ratio bias in historical Sami: warm years bring more sons.

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  • 1Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014 Turku, Finland.


The birth sex ratio of vertebrates with chromosomal sex determination has been shown to respond to environmental variability, such as temperature. However, in humans the few previous studies on environmental temperature and birth sex ratios have produced mixed results. We examined whether reconstructed annual mean temperatures were associated with annual offspring sex ratio at birth in the eighteenth to nineteenth century Sami from northern Finland. We found that warm years correlated with a male-biased sex ratio, whereas a warm previous year skewed sex ratio towards females. The net effect of one degree Celsius increase in mean temperature during these 2 years corresponded to approximately 1% more sons born annually. Although the physiological and ecological mechanisms mediating these effects and their evolutionary consequences on parental fitness remain unknown, our results show that environmental temperature may affect human birth sex ratio.

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