The genetic sex-determination system predicts adult sex ratios in tetrapods

Nature. 2015 Nov 5;527(7576):91-4. doi: 10.1038/nature15380. Epub 2015 Oct 7.


The adult sex ratio (ASR) has critical effects on behaviour, ecology and population dynamics, but the causes of variation in ASRs are unclear. Here we assess whether the type of genetic sex determination influences the ASR using data from 344 species in 117 families of tetrapods. We show that taxa with female heterogamety have a significantly more male-biased ASR (proportion of males: 0.55 ± 0.01 (mean ± s.e.m.)) than taxa with male heterogamety (0.43 ± 0.01). The genetic sex-determination system explains 24% of interspecific variation in ASRs in amphibians and 36% in reptiles. We consider several genetic factors that could contribute to this pattern, including meiotic drive and sex-linked deleterious mutations, but further work is needed to quantify their effects. Regardless of the mechanism, the effects of the genetic sex-determination system on the adult sex ratio are likely to have profound effects on the demography and social behaviour of tetrapods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amphibians / genetics
  • Animals
  • Birds / genetics
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Meiosis / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Reptiles / genetics
  • Sex Chromosomes / genetics*
  • Sex Determination Processes / genetics*
  • Sex Ratio*