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Supplementary methods and results from Sperm sex ratio adjustment in a mammal: perceived male competition leads to elevated proportions of female-producing sperm

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posted on 19.05.2020 by Renée C. Firman, Jamie N. Tedeschi, Francisco Garcia-Gonzalez
Mammal sex allocation research has focused almost exclusively on maternal traits, but it is now apparent that fathers can also influence offspring sex ratios. Parents that produce female offspring under conditions of the intense male–male competition can benefit with greater assurance of maximized grand-parentage. Adaptive adjustment in the sperm sex ratio, for example with an increase in the production of X-chromosome bearing sperm (CBS), is one potential paternal mechanism for achieving female-biased sex ratios. Here, we tested this mechanistic hypothesis by varying the risk of male–male competition that male house mice perceived during development, and quantifying sperm sex ratios at sexual maturity. Our analyses revealed that males exposed to a competitive ‘risk’ produced lower proportions of Y-CBS compared to males that matured under ‘no risk’ of competition. We also explored whether testosterone production was linked to sperm sex ratio variation, but found no evidence to support this. We discuss our findings in relation to the adaptive value of sperm sex ratio adjustments and the role of steroid hormones in socially induced sex allocation.

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