Persistence of an extreme male-biased adult sex ratio in a natural population of polyandrous bird


András Kosztolányi, Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, H-1117, Budapest, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/c, Hungary.
Tel.: +36 1 381 2179; fax: +36 1 381 2180; e-mail:


In a number of insects, fishes and birds, the conventional sex roles are reversed: males are the main care provider, whereas females focus on matings. The reversal of typical sex roles is an evolutionary puzzle, because it challenges the foundations of sex roles, sexual selection and parental investment theory. Recent theoretical models predict that biased parental care may be a response to biased adult sex ratios (ASRs). However, estimating ASR is challenging in natural populations, because males and females often have different detectabilities. Here, we use demographic modelling with field data from 2101 individuals, including 579 molecularly sexed offspring, to provide evidence that ASR is strongly male biased in a polyandrous bird with male-biased care. The model predicts 6.1 times more adult males than females (ASR = 0.860, proportion of males) in the Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus. The extreme male bias is consistent between years and concordant with experimental results showing strongly biased mating opportunity towards females. Based on these results, we conjecture that parental sex-role reversal may occur in populations that exhibit extreme male-biased ASR.