Sex ratio, sex-specific chick mortality and sexual size dimorphism in birds


María M. Benito, Dept. Biologia Animal (Vertebrats), Universitat de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, Barcelona 08028, Spain.
Tel.: +34 93 4034802; fax: +34 93 4035740;


It has been suggested that sexual size dimorphism (SSD) may influence sex ratios at different life stages. Higher energy requirements during growth associated with larger body size could lead to a greater mortality of the larger sex and ultimately to an overproduction of the smaller sex. To explore the associations between SSD and hatching and fledging sex ratio we performed a species-level analysis and a phylogenetically controlled analysis, based on 83 bird species. Overall, there was a significant inverse relationship between the degree of SSD and the proportion of males at hatching and fledging. Sex-specific mortality related to SSD showed a weak but persistent negative tendency, suggesting a mortality bias towards the larger sex. These results suggest that changes in relation to SSD may take place mainly at the conception stage, but could be adjusted during growth. However, conclusions should be treated cautiously as these relationships weaken when additional variables are considered.