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Keywords:

  • anogenital distance;
  • fitness;
  • litter sex ratio;
  • testosterone;
  • yellow-bellied marmots

Summary

1. The presence of siblings might have long-lasting fitness consequences because they influence the early environment in which an animal develops. Several studies under laboratory conditions have shown long-lasting consequences from the presence of male siblings in utero on morphology and life-history traits. However, in wild animals, such effects of litter sex composition are unexplored.

2. We capitalized on a long-term study of individually marked yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) and documented the effects of weaned litter sex composition and anogenital distance on several life-history and fitness traits.

3. First, we demonstrated that the number of males in a litter influenced anogenital distance. Then, we found that masculinized females, those with larger anogenital distances, were less likely to survive their first hibernation, were more likely to disperse and were less likely to become pregnant and wean young. Males from male-biased litters had lower growth rates, but we failed to detect longer-term consequences.

4. Taken together, our results show profound sex-dependent effects of litter sex composition, probably due to differential prenatal exposure to androgens, in free-living animals. We conclude that masculinization might constitute an alternative mechanism explaining variation in different demographic traits. This finding highlights the importance of studying these maternal effects, and they enhance our concern over the widespread use of endocrine disrupting compounds.