, Volume 118, Issue 1, pp 16-22

Variably male-biased sex ratio in a marine bird with females larger than males

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Abstract

When the costs of rearing males and females differ progeny sex ratios are expected to be biased toward the less expensive sex. Blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) females are larger and roughly 32% heavier than males, thus presumably more costly to rear. We recorded hatching and fledging sex ratios in 1989, and fledging sex ratios during the next 5 years. In 1989, the sample of 751 chicks showed male bias at hatching (56%) and at fledging (57% at ˜90 days). Fledging sex ratios during the five subsequent reproductive seasons were at unity (1 year) or male-biased, varying from 56% to 70%. Male bias was greater during years when mean sea surface temperature was warmer and food was presumably in short supply. During two warm-water years (only) fledging sex ratio varied with hatching date. Proportions of male fledglings increased with date from 0.48 to 0.73 in 1994, and from 0.33 to 0.79 in 1995. Similar results were obtained when the analysis was repeated using only broods with no nestling mortality, suggesting that the overall increase in the proportion of males over the season was the result of sex ratio adjustments at hatching. The male-biased sex ratio, and the increased male bias during poor breeding conditions supports the idea that daughters may be more costly than sons, and that their relative cost increases in poor conditions.

An erratum to this article can be found online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-009-1378-x.