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Facultative sex-ratio adjustment in Norway rats: litters born asynchronously are female biased

Summary

Previously we reported that inter-litter competition reduces the survival of pups born to pairs of female rats living and breeding in the same nesting environment. Inter-litter competition occurred when females gave birth asynchronously; specifically, when a female gave birth in the presence of 15 to 28-day-old pups, her newborn pups were likely to die as a result of nest intrusion by the older pups. In contrast, inter-litter competition occurred rarely when the two females gave birth synchronously. Because theories of facultative sex ratio adjustment predict that mothers giving birth in unfavorable circumstances should bias their offspring towards the more viable or less expensive sex, we predicted that litters born asynchronously would be female biased. Conversely, we also predicted that females giving birth under favorable conditions, i.e., synchronously, would bias their litters toward males. We found a female bias in asynchronous litters, but did not find a male bias in synchronous litters. Moreover, in contrast to other reports in the literature, the female bias in asynchronous litters was achieved without a reduction in litter size. Based on correlational data, we suggest several mechanisms that could produce this female bias: conditions at fertilization and implantation, time since the male last mated and number of pups suckling concurrently during gestation.

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Correspondence to: M.K. McClintock

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Blumberg, M.S., Mennella, J.A., Moltz, H. et al. Facultative sex-ratio adjustment in Norway rats: litters born asynchronously are female biased. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 31, 401–408 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00170607

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00170607

Keywords

  • Favorable Condition
  • Litter Size
  • Correlational Data
  • Male Bias
  • Ratio Adjustment