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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53904. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053904. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Resource elasticity of offspring survival and the optimal evolution of sex ratios.

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Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science, Kunming, Yunnan, China.


The fitness of any organisms includes the survival and reproductive rate of adults and the survival of their offspring. Environmental selection pressures might not affect these two aspects of an organism equally. Assuming that an organism first allocates its limited resources to maintain its survival under environmental selection pressure, our model, based on the evolutionarily stable strategy theory, surprisingly shows that the sex ratio is greatly affected by the environmental pressure intensity and by the reproductive resource elasticity of offspring survival. Moreover, the concept of the resource elasticity of offspring survival intrinsically integrates the ecological concepts of K selection and r selection. The model shows that in a species with reproductive strategy K, increased environmental selection pressure will reduce resource allocation to the male function. By contrast, in a species with reproductive strategy r, harsher environmental selection pressure will increase allocation to the male function. The elasticity of offspring survival might vary not only across species, but also across many other factors affecting the same species (e.g., age structure, spatial heterogeneity), which explains sex ratio differences across species or age structures and spatial heterogeneity in the same species.

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