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PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4195. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004195. Epub 2009 Jan 14.

A Trivers-Willard effect in contemporary humans: male-biased sex ratios among billionaires.

Author information

1
Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. ezcameron@zoology.up.ac.za

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Natural selection should favour the ability of mothers to adjust the sex ratio of offspring in relation to the offspring's potential reproductive success. In polygynous species, mothers in good condition would be advantaged by giving birth to more sons. While studies on mammals in general provide support for the hypothesis, studies on humans provide particularly inconsistent results, possibly because the assumptions of the model do not apply.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Here, we take a subset of humans in very good condition: the Forbe's billionaire list. First, we test if the assumptions of the model apply, and show that mothers leave more grandchildren through their sons than through their daughters. We then show that billionaires have 60% sons, which is significantly different from the general population, consistent with our hypothesis. However, women who themselves are billionaires have fewer sons than women having children with billionaires, suggesting that maternal testosterone does not explain the observed variation. Furthermore, paternal masculinity as indexed by achievement, could not explain the variation, since there was no variation in sex ratio between self-made or inherited billionaires.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

Humans in the highest economic bracket leave more grandchildren through sons than through daughters. Therefore, adaptive variation in sex ratios is expected, and human mothers in the highest economic bracket do give birth to more sons, suggesting similar sex ratio manipulation as seen in other mammals.

PMID:
19142225
PMCID:
PMC2614476
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0004195
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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