Offspring sex ratio varies with clutch size for female house wrens induced to lay supernumerary eggs


Theory predicts that a mother's ability to produce high-quality offspring should influence whether she produces sons or daughters. We tested this hypothesis in house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) using a within-clutch design in which we induced females to produce more eggs (8-10 eggs) than they normally would (6 or 7 eggs) to determine whether maternal effort and the allocation of resources to supernumerary eggs (those laid beyond the usual number) influence the offspring sex ratio. At the clutch level, we predicted that high-quality females, as defined by their ability to produce supernumerary eggs in response to egg removal, would overproduce sons relative to females treated the same way but producing fewer eggs. At the level of the egg, we predicted that supernumerary eggs would more likely contain daughters than sons. As predicted, females producing extralarge clutches overproduced sons and those producing smaller clutches produced relatively more daughters. Last-laid eggs were also more likely to contain daughters than earlier-laid eggs although there was no difference in the mass of eggs containing males and females. These results suggest that mothers adjust the sex of their offspring strategically to maximize fitness. © The Author 2013.

Publication Title

Behavioral Ecology