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Concept: Gamete


We describe the trajectory of the human sex ratio from conception to birth by analyzing data from (i) 3- to 6-d-old embryos, (ii) induced abortions, (iii) chorionic villus sampling, (iv) amniocentesis, and (v) fetal deaths and live births. Our dataset is the most comprehensive and largest ever assembled to estimate the sex ratio at conception and the sex ratio trajectory and is the first, to our knowledge, to include all of these types of data. Our estimate of the sex ratio at conception is 0.5 (proportion male), which contradicts the common claim that the sex ratio at conception is male-biased. The sex ratio among abnormal embryos is male-biased, and the sex ratio among normal embryos is female-biased. These biases are associated with the abnormal/normal state of the sex chromosomes and of chromosomes 15 and 17. The sex ratio may decrease in the first week or so after conception (due to excess male mortality); it then increases for at least 10-15 wk (due to excess female mortality), levels off after ∼20 wk, and declines slowly from 28 to 35 wk (due to excess male mortality). Total female mortality during pregnancy exceeds total male mortality. The unbiased sex ratio at conception, the increase in the sex ratio during the first trimester, and total mortality during pregnancy being greater for females are fundamental insights into early human development.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Human, Male, Reproduction, Female, Gender, Sex, Gamete


Women who start college in one of the natural or physical sciences leave in greater proportions than their male peers. The reasons for this difference are complex, and one possible contributing factor is the social environment women experience in the classroom. Using social network analysis, we explore how gender influences the confidence that college-level biology students have in each other’s mastery of biology. Results reveal that males are more likely than females to be named by peers as being knowledgeable about the course content. This effect increases as the term progresses, and persists even after controlling for class performance and outspokenness. The bias in nominations is specifically due to males over-nominating their male peers relative to their performance. The over-nomination of male peers is commensurate with an overestimation of male grades by 0.57 points on a 4 point grade scale, indicating a strong male bias among males when assessing their classmates. Females, in contrast, nominated equitably based on student performance rather than gender, suggesting they lacked gender biases in filling out these surveys. These trends persist across eleven surveys taken in three different iterations of the same Biology course. In every class, the most renowned students are always male. This favoring of males by peers could influence student self-confidence, and thus persistence in this STEM discipline.

Concepts: Human, Male, Female, Gender, Sociology, Sex, Woman, Gamete


BACKGROUND: Females have often been shown to exhibit preferences for certain male traits. However, little is known about behavioural rules females use when searching for mates in their natural habitat. We investigated mate sampling tactics and related costs in the territorial strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) possessing a lek-like mating system, where both sequential and simultaneous sampling might occur. We continuously monitored the sampling pattern and behaviour of females during the complete period between two successive matings. RESULTS: We found no evidence that females compared males by visiting them. Instead females mated with the closest calling male irrespective of his acoustic and physical traits, and territory size. Playback experiments in the natural home ranges of receptive females revealed that tested females preferred the nearest speaker and did not discriminate between low and high call rates or dominant frequencies. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that females of O. pumilio prefer the closest calling male in the studied population. We hypothesize that the sampling tactic in this population is affected by 1) a strongly female biased sex ratio and 2) a low variance in traits of available males due to strong male-male competition, preventing low quality males from defending a territory and mating.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Gamete, Poison dart frog


There is accumulating evidence of condition-dependent mate choice in many species, that is, individual preferences varying in strength according to the condition of the chooser. In humans, for example, people with more attractive faces/bodies, and who are higher in sociosexuality, exhibit stronger preferences for attractive traits in opposite-sex faces/bodies. However, previous studies have tended to use only relatively simple, isolated measures of rater attractiveness. Here we use 3D body scanning technology to examine associations between strength of rater preferences for attractive traits in opposite-sex bodies, and raters' body shape, self-perceived attractiveness, and sociosexuality. For 118 raters and 80 stimuli models, we used a 3D scanner to extract body measurements associated with attractiveness (male waist-chest ratio [WCR], female waist-hip ratio [WHR], and volume-height index [VHI] in both sexes) and also measured rater self-perceived attractiveness and sociosexuality. As expected, WHR and VHI were important predictors of female body attractiveness, while WCR and VHI were important predictors of male body attractiveness. Results indicated that male rater sociosexuality scores were positively associated with strength of preference for attractive (low) VHI and attractive (low) WHR in female bodies. Moreover, male rater self-perceived attractiveness was positively associated with strength of preference for low VHI in female bodies. The only evidence of condition-dependent preferences in females was a positive association between attractive VHI in female raters and preferences for attractive (low) WCR in male bodies. No other significant associations were observed in either sex between aspects of rater body shape and strength of preferences for attractive opposite-sex body traits. These results suggest that among male raters, rater self-perceived attractiveness and sociosexuality are important predictors of preference strength for attractive opposite-sex body shapes, and that rater body traits -with the exception of VHI in female raters- may not be good predictors of these preferences in either sex.

Concepts: Male, Female, Sex, Gamete, Waist-hip ratio, Body shape, Female body shape, Physical attractiveness


Mouse sex determination provides an attractive model to study how regulatory genetic networks and signaling pathways control cell specification and cell fate decisions. This study characterizes in detail the essential role played by the insulin receptor (INSR) and the IGF type I receptor (IGF1R) in adrenogenital development and primary sex determination. Constitutive ablation of insulin/IGF signaling pathway led to reduced proliferation rate of somatic progenitor cells in both XX and XY gonads prior to sex determination together with the downregulation of hundreds of genes associated with the adrenal, testicular, and ovarian genetic programs. These findings indicate that prior to sex determination somatic progenitors in Insr;Igf1r mutant gonads are not lineage primed and thus incapable of upregulating/repressing the male and female genetic programs required for cell fate restriction. In consequence, embryos lacking functional insulin/IGF signaling exhibit (i) complete agenesis of the adrenal cortex, (ii) embryonic XY gonadal sex reversal, with a delay of Sry upregulation and the subsequent failure of the testicular genetic program, and (iii) a delay in ovarian differentiation so that Insr;Igf1r mutant gonads, irrespective of genetic sex, remained in an extended undifferentiated state, before the ovarian differentiation program ultimately is initiated at around E16.5.

Concepts: Gene, Signal transduction, Chromosome, Hormone, Testicle, Gamete, Endocrine system, Ovary


Trichilemmal cyst, also known as “pilar cyst,” is a benign cyst containing keratin and its breakdown products with a wall resembling external root sheath of hair. It occurs mostly in females as a solitary firm nodule over scalp. Occurrence of multiple trichilemmal cysts in areas other than scalp is extremely rare. We are reporting a case of a 40-years-old female who presented with multiple calcified trichilemmal cysts in multicentric distribution associated with alopecia universalis. Similar complaints were present in elder sister of the patient, indicating a genetic background. Multicentric distribution of trichilemmal cysts, calcification, familial occurrence, and association with alopecia universalis seen in our case are all rare and intriguing features.

Concepts: Family, Female, Gamete, Sebaceous cyst, Cyst, Sibling, Trichilemmal cyst


Amniotes possess variability in sex determining mechanisms, however, this diversity is still only partially known throughout the clade and sex determining systems still remain unknown even in such a popular and distinctive lineage as chameleons (Squamata: Acrodonta: Chamaeleonidae). Here, we present evidence for female heterogamety in this group. The Malagasy giant chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) (chromosome number 2n = 22) possesses heteromorphic Z and W sex chromosomes with heterochromatic W. The panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis) (2n = 22 in males, 21 in females), the second most popular chameleon species in the world pet trade, exhibits a rather rare Z1Z1Z2Z2/Z1Z2W system of multiple sex chromosomes, which most likely evolved from W-autosome fusion. Notably, its neo-W chromosome is partially heterochromatic and its female-specific genetic content has expanded into the previously autosomal region. Showing clear evidence for genotypic sex determination in the panther chameleon, we resolve the long-standing question of whether or not environmental sex determination exists in this species. Together with recent findings in other reptile lineages, our work demonstrates that female heterogamety is widespread among amniotes, adding another important piece to the mosaic of knowledge on sex determination in amniotes needed to understand the evolution of this important trait.

Concepts: Human, Male, Chromosome, Sex, Reptile, Gamete, Sex-determination system, Chameleon


Egg activation refers to events required for transition of a gamete into an embryo, including establishment of the polyspermy block, completion of meiosis, entry into mitosis, selective recruitment and degradation of maternal mRNA, and pronuclear development. Here we show that zinc fluxes accompany human egg activation. We monitored calcium and zinc dynamics in individual human eggs using selective fluorophores following activation with calcium-ionomycin, ionomycin, or hPLCζ cRNA microinjection. These egg activation methods, as expected, induced rises in intracellular calcium levels and also triggered the coordinated release of zinc into the extracellular space in a prominent “zinc spark.” The ability of the gamete to mount a zinc spark response was meiotic-stage dependent. Moreover, chelation of intracellular zinc alone was sufficient to induce cell cycle resumption and transition of a meiotic cell into a mitotic one. Together, these results demonstrate critical functions for zinc dynamics and establish the zinc spark as an extracellular marker of early human development.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Mitosis, Meiosis, Gamete, Interphase, Chromatid


Sex-specific elaborations are common in animals and have attracted the attention of many biologists, including Darwin [1]. It is accepted that sexual selection promotes the evolution of sex-specific elaborations. Due to the faster replenishment rate of gametes, males generally have higher potential reproductive and optimal mating rates than females. Therefore, sexual selection acts strongly on males [2], leading to the rapid evolution and diversification of male genitalia [3]. Male genitalia are sometimes used as devices for coercive holding of females as a result of sexual conflict over mating [4, 5]. In contrast, female genitalia are usually simple. Here we report the reversal of intromittent organs in the insect genus Neotrogla (Psocodea: Prionoglarididae) from Brazilian caves. Females have a highly elaborate, penis-like structure, the gynosome, while males lack an intromittent organ. The gynosome has species-specific elaborations, such as numerous spines that fit species-specific pouches in the simple male genital chamber. During prolonged copulation (∼40-70 hr), a large and potentially nutritious ejaculate is transferred from the male via the gynosome. The correlated genital evolution in Neotrogla is probably driven by reversed sexual selection with females competing for seminal gifts. Nothing similar is known among sex-role reversed animals.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Male, Reproduction, Female, Sex, Reproductive system, Gamete, Penis


Collaboration plays an increasingly important role in promoting research productivity and impact. What remains unclear is whether female and male researchers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) disciplines differ in their collaboration propensity. Here, we report on an empirical analysis of the complete publication records of 3,980 faculty members in six STEM disciplines at select U.S. research universities. We find that female faculty have significantly fewer distinct co-authors over their careers than males, but that this difference can be fully accounted for by females' lower publication rate and shorter career lengths. Next, we find that female scientists have a lower probability of repeating previous co-authors than males, an intriguing result because prior research shows that teams involving new collaborations produce work with higher impact. Finally, we find evidence for gender segregation in some sub-disciplines in molecular biology, in particular in genomics where we find female faculty to be clearly under-represented.

Concepts: Scientific method, Human, Male, Female, Gender, Science, Sex, Gamete