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Q Rev Biol. 1986 Sep;61(3):339-74.

Sex ratio variation in mammals.


Parents will increase their fitness by varying the sex ratio of their progeny in response to differences in the costs and benefits of producing sons and daughters. Sex differences in energy requirements or viability during early growth, differences in the relative fitness of male and female offspring, and competition or cooperation between siblings or between siblings and parents might all be expected to affect the sex ratio. Although few trends have yet been shown to be consistent, growing numbers of studies have demonstrated significant variation in birth sex ratios in non-human mammals. These are commonly cited as evidence of adaptive manipulation of the sex ratio. However, several different mechanisms may affect the birth sex ratio, and not all of them are likely to be adaptive. Valid evidence that sex ratio trends are adaptive must be based either on the overall distribution of those trends or on cases in which the sex ratio can be shown to vary with the relative fitness of producing sons and daughters. The distribution of observed sex ratio trends does not conform closely to the predictions of any single adaptive theory. Some recent studies, however, indicate that, within species, the sex ratio varies with the costs or benefits of producing male or female offspring.

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