Demographic causes of adult sex ratio variation and their consequences for parental cooperation

Luke J. Eberhart-Phillips*, Clemens Küpper, Mariá Cristina Carmona-Isunza, Orsolya Vincze, Sama Zefania, Medardo Cruz-López, András Kosztolányi, Tom E.X. Miller, Zoltán Barta, Innes C. Cuthill, Terry Burke, Tamás Székely, Joseph I. Hoffman, Oliver Krüger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
234 Downloads (Pure)


The adult sex ratio (ASR) is a fundamental concept in population biology, sexual selection, and social evolution. However, it remains unclear which demographic processes generate ASR variation and how biases in ASR in turn affect social behaviour. Here, we evaluate the demographic mechanisms shaping ASR and their potential consequences for parental cooperation using detailed survival, fecundity, and behavioural data on 6119 individuals from six wild shorebird populations exhibiting flexible parental strategies. We show that these closely related populations express strikingly different ASRs, despite having similar ecologies and life histories, and that ASR variation is largely driven by sex differences in the apparent survival of juveniles. Furthermore, families in populations with biased ASRs were predominantly tended by a single parent, suggesting that parental cooperation breaks down with unbalanced sex ratios. Taken together, our results indicate that sex biases emerging during early life have profound consequences for social behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1651
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2018


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