Hypotheses on the stability and variation of human sex ratios at birth

J Theor Biol. 2012 Oct 7;310:183-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2012.06.038. Epub 2012 Jul 7.


Human sex ratios at birth simultaneously show both significant variation with a number of variables, and striking stability across time. Hypotheses on these features are discussed here. A) The causes of the stability are not established. B) There are several hypotheses which purport to explain sex ratio variation. 1. The Trivers–Willard hypothesis has had only limited success. This may be because (from a methodological standpoint) it has an unusual provenance in that it is not a response to a perceived need for explanation of an observed phenomenon. At present there seems too much evidence in its favour for this hypothesis to be rejected, and too much against it, for it to be accepted. 2. My hypothesis proposes that hormone concentrations (of both parents) around the time of conception partially control the sex of the zygote. A substantial quantity of data has been adduced in favour of this hypothesis. But it cannot explain all types of variation of sex ratios at birth. 3. It has been proposed by Catalano that other variation in sex ratios at birth is associated with maternal stress during pregnancy. He and his co-workers have adduced substantial quantities of data to support this hypothesis too.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Female
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Parturition*
  • Sex Ratio*


  • Hormones