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Abstract

The authors report and explain female-biased sex ratios in the neotropical treehopper Umbonia ataliba Homoptera: Membracidae at Monteverde, Costa Rica. Umbonia ataliba mothers semelparously oviposit egg masses into host-plant branches, make feeding holes, and guard the eggs and the nymphs until the young moult to become adults. At adulthood, offspring sex ratios are female-biased, with families having, on average, one male per 3.17 females (SD = 0.149, n = 48). The female bias does not appear to be explained by the hypothesis that males are more difficult to raise to independence: males are smaller than females, males have a shorter development time, males do not require disproportionately more feeding holes, and males do not experience higher mortality in families that are unprotected from parasites and predators, rather, females die more often in protected families. Thus females, not males, may be more difficult to raise to independence. The authors investigated whether increases in the size of males and females increased the fitness of either sex disproportionately, but found no relationship between size and fitness for either sex. We found evidence that local-mate competition conditions and inbreeding occur. Mating occurs at the natal site and nearly all copulations take place between siblings (99.3 %, n = 153 copulations). Most females (mean proportion of females = 0.65, SD = 0.33, n = 7 families) copulate with their male siblings prior to dispersing; whether the unmated proportion copulates later is unknown. This paper suggests that the numerical bias reflects an investment bias favoured under selection by inbreeding and local-mate competition conditions.