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Why parental sex ratio manipulation is rare in higher vertebrates. (Invited Article)


Krackow, S (2002). Why parental sex ratio manipulation is rare in higher vertebrates. (Invited Article). Ethology, 108(12):1041-1056.

Abstract

The debate over adaptive parental sex ratio adjustment in higher vertebrates appears neither to be resolvable by the current approach, nor does it necessarily make sense. It rests on the a priori supposition of parental manipulation, which is questioned here from first principle. It is considered an unlikely biological hypothesis if we extend our perspective to gametic and offspring optimal strategies, and to the potential mechanisms existing in the avian and mammalian reproductive systems. Evenness of primary sex ratios is expected to be optimal from the gametic point of view and is supposed here to be the more likely evolutionary outcome. Also, manipulations by sex-selective offspring mortality is argued to be unlikely as usually the benefits will be surpassed by the costs incurred. Furthermore, parents can adjust behavioural and energetic investment patterns to their offspring sex (ratio), thereby minimizing any costs of sex ratio control inability. Slight biases in offspring sex ratios are then viewed as resulting from physiological limitations ultimately relating to sex differences in embryonic development. Contrary to recent attempts to understand higher vertebrate sex ratio variation by further refinement of functional models (of parental optima) and data analysis, Bayesian logic precludes those approaches to gain useful new insights. To prove the basic assumption of parental manipulation, apart from defining gametic and offspring optima, the emphasis should lie on identifying control mechanisms by experimental verification.

The debate over adaptive parental sex ratio adjustment in higher vertebrates appears neither to be resolvable by the current approach, nor does it necessarily make sense. It rests on the a priori supposition of parental manipulation, which is questioned here from first principle. It is considered an unlikely biological hypothesis if we extend our perspective to gametic and offspring optimal strategies, and to the potential mechanisms existing in the avian and mammalian reproductive systems. Evenness of primary sex ratios is expected to be optimal from the gametic point of view and is supposed here to be the more likely evolutionary outcome. Also, manipulations by sex-selective offspring mortality is argued to be unlikely as usually the benefits will be surpassed by the costs incurred. Furthermore, parents can adjust behavioural and energetic investment patterns to their offspring sex (ratio), thereby minimizing any costs of sex ratio control inability. Slight biases in offspring sex ratios are then viewed as resulting from physiological limitations ultimately relating to sex differences in embryonic development. Contrary to recent attempts to understand higher vertebrate sex ratio variation by further refinement of functional models (of parental optima) and data analysis, Bayesian logic precludes those approaches to gain useful new insights. To prove the basic assumption of parental manipulation, apart from defining gametic and offspring optima, the emphasis should lie on identifying control mechanisms by experimental verification.

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75 citations in Web of Science®
73 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Zoology (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2002
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:15
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:14
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0179-1613
Publisher DOI:10.1046/j.1439-0310.2002.00843.x

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