, Volume 156, Issue 2, pp 441–453 | Cite as

Male-biased brood sex ratio depresses average phenotypic quality of barn swallow nestlings under experimentally harsh conditions

  • Nicola Saino
  • Rosa Mary de Ayala
  • Roberta Martinelli
  • Giuseppe Boncoraglio
Behavioral Ecology - Original Paper


Sex allocation strategies are believed to evolve in response to variation in fitness costs and benefits arising from the production of either sex and can be influenced by the differential susceptibility of sons and daughters to environmental conditions. We tested the effects of manipulating brood size and the sex ratio of the nestmates and the effect of sex on the phenotypic quality of individual barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) nestlings. Brood enlargement, which results in harsh rearing conditions, negatively affected the morphology and immunity of the nestlings. However, the negative consequences of brood enlargement were more marked among male than female offspring. In enlarged but not reduced broods, high proportions of male nestmates resulted in lowered individual body mass, body condition and feather growth. Thus, the consequences of a harsh environment on individual nestlings differed between the sexes and depended on the sex ratio among the other nestlings in the brood. The evolution of sex allocation strategies may therefore depend on the sex of individual nestlings but also on an interaction between environment and progeny sex ratio.


Body size Brood size Growth Immunity Sex Sex allocation Sex ratio 



A FPI Grant (Research Training Program) from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science supported R.M.d.A.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Saino
    • 1
  • Rosa Mary de Ayala
    • 2
    • 3
  • Roberta Martinelli
    • 1
  • Giuseppe Boncoraglio
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di BiologiaUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Estación Experimental de Zonas ÁridasConsejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasAlmeríaSpain
  3. 3.Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES)Department of Biology, University of OsloBlindern, OsloNorway

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