Sex ratio adjustments in common terns: influence of mate condition and maternal experience

Authors

  • María M. Benito,

    1. Inst. de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Dept Biología Animal (Vertebrats), Univ. de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, ES-08028 Barcelona, Spain
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  • Holger Schielzeth,

    1. Inst. de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Dept Biología Animal (Vertebrats), Univ. de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, ES-08028 Barcelona, Spain
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  • Jacob González-Solís,

    1. Inst. de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Dept Biología Animal (Vertebrats), Univ. de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, ES-08028 Barcelona, Spain
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  • Peter H. Becker

    1. Inst. de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Dept Biología Animal (Vertebrats), Univ. de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, ES-08028 Barcelona, Spain
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M. M. Benito, Inst. de Recerca de la Biodiversitat (IRBio), Dept Biología Animal (Vertebrats), Univ. de Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 643, ES-08028 Barcelona, Spain. E-mail: mmartinezb@ub.edu

Abstract

Adaptive sex allocation has frequently been studied in sexually size dimorphic species, but far less is known about patterns of sex allocation in species without pronounced sexual size dimorphism. Parental optimal investment can be predicted under circumstances in which sons and daughters differ in costs and/or fitness returns. In common terns Sterna hirundo, previous studies suggest that sons are the more costly sex to produce and rear. We investigated whether hatching and fledging sex ratio and sex-specific chick mortality correlated with the ecological environment (laying date, clutch size, hatching order and year quality) and parental traits (condition, arrival date, experience and breeding success), over seven consecutive years. Population-wide sex ratios and sex-specific mortality did not differ from parity, but clutch size, mass of the father, maternal breeding experience and to some extent year quality correlated with hatching sex ratio. The proportion of sons tended to increase in productive years and when the father was heavier, suggesting the possibility that females invest more in sons when the environmental and the partner conditions are good. The proportion of daughters increased with clutch size and maternal breeding experience, suggesting a decline in breeding performance or a resources balance solved by producing more of the cheaper sex. No clear patterns of sex-specific mortality were found, neither global nor related to parental traits. Our results suggest lines for future studies on adaptive sex allocation in sexually nearly monomorphic species, where adjustment of sex ratio related to parental factors and differential allocation between the offspring may also occur.

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