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Keywords:

  • generalized linear mixed model;
  • male weaponry;
  • meta-analysis;
  • Orthoptera;
  • overdispersion;
  • weta

Abstract

Theory proposes that sexually dimorphic, polygynous species are at particularly high risk of sex-biased predation, because conspicuous males are more often preyed upon compared to females. We tested the effects of predation on population sex ratio in a highly sexually dimorphic insect genus (Hemideina). In addition, introduction of a suite of novel mammalian predators to New Zealand during the last 800 years is likely to have modified selection pressures on native tree weta. We predicted that the balance between natural and sexual selection would be disrupted by the new predator species. We expected to see a sex ratio skew resulting from higher mortality in males with expensive secondary sexual weaponry; combat occurs outside refuge cavities between male tree weta. We took a meta-analytic approach using generalized linear mixed models to compare sex ratio variation in 58 populations for six of the seven species in Hemideina. We investigated adult sex ratio across these populations to determine how much variation in sex ratio can be attributed to sex-biased predation in populations with either low or high number of invasive mammalian predators. Surprisingly, we did not detect any significant deviation from 1 : 1 parity for adult sex ratio and found little difference between populations or species. We conclude that there is little evidence of sex-biased predation by either native or mammalian predators and observed sex ratio skew in individual populations of tree weta is probably an artefact of sampling error. We argue that sex-biased predation may be less prevalent in sexually dimorphic species than previously suspected and emphasize the usefulness of a meta-analytic approach to robustly analyse disparate and heterogeneous data.