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Concept: Sex ratio


Climate change affects species and ecosystems around the globe [1]. The impacts of rising temperature are particularly pertinent in species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), where the sex of an individual is determined by incubation temperature during embryonic development [2]. In sea turtles, the proportion of female hatchlings increases with the incubation temperature. With average global temperature predicted to increase 2.6°C by 2100 [3], many sea turtle populations are in danger of high egg mortality and female-only offspring production. Unfortunately, determining the sex ratios of hatchlings at nesting beaches carries both logistical and ethical complications. However, sex ratio data obtained at foraging grounds provides information on the amalgamation of immature and adult turtles hatched from different nesting beaches over many years. Here, for the first time, we use genetic markers and a mixed-stock analysis (MSA), combined with sex determination through laparoscopy and endocrinology, to link male and female green turtles foraging in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) to the nesting beach from which they hatched. Our results show a moderate female sex bias (65%-69% female) in turtles originating from the cooler southern GBR nesting beaches, while turtles originating from warmer northern GBR nesting beaches were extremely female-biased (99.1% of juvenile, 99.8% of subadult, and 86.8% of adult-sized turtles). Combining our results with temperature data show that the northern GBR green turtle rookeries have been producing primarily females for more than two decades and that the complete feminization of this population is possible in the near future.

Concepts: Male, Sex, Reptile, Great Barrier Reef, Sex ratio, Hawksbill turtle, Leatherback turtle, Sea turtle


The ratio of male to female offspring at birth may be a simple and non-invasive way to monitor the reproductive health of a population. Except in societies where selective abortion skews the sex ratio, approximately 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. Generally, the human sex ratio at birth is remarkably constant in large populations. After the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in April 1986, a long lasting significant elevation in the sex ratio has been found in Russia, i.e. more boys or fewer girls compared to expectation were born. Recently, also for Cuba an escalated sex ratio from 1987 onward has been documented and discussed in the scientific literature.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Demography, Population, Chernobyl disaster, Gender, Sex ratio


The effect of natural disasters on secondary sex ratio (SSR) and perinatal outcomes has been suggested. This study aimed to examine effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake on perinatal outcomes using vital statistics of Japan.

Concepts: Effect, Effects unit, Great Hanshin earthquake, Sex ratio


The impact that unbalanced sex ratios have on health and societal outcomes is of mounting contemporary concern. However, it is increasingly unclear whether it is male- or female-biased sex ratios that are associated with family and social instability. From a socio-demographic perspective, male-biased sex ratios leave many men unable to find a mate, elevating competition among males, disrupting family formation and negatively affecting social stability. In contrast, from a mating-market perspective, males are expected to be less willing to marry and commit to a family when the sex ratio is female-biased and males are rare. Here we use U.S. data to evaluate predictions from these competing frameworks by testing the relationship between the adult sex ratio and measures of family formation. We find that when women are rare men are more likely to marry, be part of a family and be sexually committed to a single partner. Our results do not support claims that male-biased sex ratios lead to negative family outcomes due to a surplus of unmarried men. Rather, our results highlight the need to pay increased attention to female-biased sex ratios.

Concepts: Marriage, Male, Female, Gender, Sex, Ratios, Stability, Sex ratio


The study of temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) in vertebrates has attracted major scientific interest. Recently, concerns for species with TSD in a warming world have increased because imbalanced sex ratios could potentially threaten population viability. In contrast, relatively little attention has been given to the direct effects of increased temperatures on successful embryonic development. Using 6603 days of sand temperature data recorded across 6 years at a globally important loggerhead sea turtle rookery-the Cape Verde Islands-we show the effects of warming incubation temperatures on the survival of hatchlings in nests. Incorporating published data (n = 110 data points for three species across 12 sites globally), we show the generality of relationships between hatchling mortality and incubation temperature and hence the broad applicability of our findings to sea turtles in general. We use a mechanistic approach supplemented by empirical data to consider the linked effects of warming temperatures on hatchling output and on sex ratios for these species that exhibit TSD. Our results show that higher temperatures increase the natural growth rate of the population as more females are produced. As a result, we project that numbers of nests at this globally important site will increase by approximately 30% by the year 2100. However, as incubation temperatures near lethal levels, the natural growth rate of the population decreases and the long-term survival of this turtle population is threatened. Our results highlight concerns for species with TSD in a warming world and underline the need for research to extend from a focus on temperature-dependent sex determination to a focus on temperature-linked hatchling mortalities.

Concepts: Male, Science, Reptile, Sex ratio, Leatherback turtle, Sea turtle, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Sea turtles


For organisms with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), skewed offspring sex ratios are common. However, climate warming poses the unique threat of producing extreme sex ratio biases that could ultimately lead to population extinctions. In marine turtles, highly female-skewed hatchling sex ratios already occur and predicted increases in global temperatures are expected to exacerbate this trend, unless species can adapt. However, it is not known whether offspring sex ratios persist into adulthood, or whether variation in male mating success intensifies the impact of a shortage of males on effective population size. Here, we use parentage analysis to show that in a rookery of the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas), despite an offspring sex ratio of 95 per cent females, there were at least 1.4 reproductive males to every breeding female. Our results suggest that male reproductive intervals may be shorter than the 2-4 years typical for females, and/or that males move between aggregations of receptive females, an inference supported by our satellite tracking, which shows that male turtles may visit multiple rookeries. We suggest that male mating patterns have the potential to buffer the disruptive effects of climate change on marine turtle populations, many of which are already seriously threatened.

Concepts: Human, Male, Reproduction, Female, Gender, Sex, Sex ratio, Leatherback turtle


Climate change poses a unique threat to species with temperature dependent sex determination (TSD), such as marine turtles, where increases in temperature can result in extreme sex ratio biases. Knowledge of the primary sex ratio of populations with TSD is key for providing a baseline to inform management strategies and to accurately predict how future climate changes may affect turtle populations. However, there is a lack of robust data on offspring sex ratio at appropriate temporal and spatial scales to inform management decisions. To address this, we estimate the primary sex ratio of hawksbill hatchlings, Eretmochelys imbricata, from incubation duration of 5514 in situ nests from 10 nesting beaches from two regions in Brazil over the last 27 years. A strong female bias was estimated in all beaches, with 96% and 89% average female sex ratios produced in Bahia (BA) and Rio Grande do Norte (RN). Both inter-annual (BA, 88 to 99%; RN, 75 to 96% female) and inter-beach (BA, 92% to 97%; RN, 81% to 92% female) variability in mean offspring sex ratio was observed. These findings will guide management decisions in Brazil and provide further evidence of highly female-skew sex ratios in hawksbill turtles.

Concepts: Male, Sex, Climate change, Sex ratio, Hawksbill turtle, Leatherback turtle, Sea turtle, Rio Grande do Sul


Many studies have focused on natural stress factors that shape the spatial and temporal distribution of calanoid copepods, but bioassays have shown that copepods are also sensitive to a broad range of contaminants. Although both anthropogenic and natural stress factors are obviously at play in natural copepod communities, most studies consider only one or the other. In the present investigation, we modelled the combined impact of both anthropogenic and natural stress factors on copepod populations. The model was applied to estimate Eurytemora affinis densities in the contaminated Scheldt estuary and the relatively uncontaminated Darß-Zingst estuary in relation to temperature, salinity, chlorophyll a and sediment concentrations of cadmium, copper and zinc. The results indicated that temperature was largely responsible for seasonal fluctuations of E. affinis densities. Our model results further suggested that exposure to zinc and copper was largely responsible for the reduced population densities in the contaminated estuary. The model provides a consistent framework for integrating and quantifying the impacts of multiple anthropogenic and natural stress factors on copepod populations. It facilitates the extrapolation of laboratory experiments to ecologically relevant endpoints pertaining to population viability.

Concepts: Biology, Demography, Population, Population ecology, Zinc, Population density, Sex ratio, Calanoida


The adult sex ratio (ASR) is a fundamental concept in population biology, sexual selection, and social evolution. However, it remains unclear which demographic processes generate ASR variation and how biases in ASR in turn affect social behaviour. Here, we evaluate the demographic mechanisms shaping ASR and their potential consequences for parental cooperation using detailed survival, fecundity, and behavioural data on 6119 individuals from six wild shorebird populations exhibiting flexible parental strategies. We show that these closely related populations express strikingly different ASRs, despite having similar ecologies and life histories, and that ASR variation is largely driven by sex differences in the apparent survival of juveniles. Furthermore, families in populations with biased ASRs were predominantly tended by a single parent, suggesting that parental cooperation breaks down with unbalanced sex ratios. Taken together, our results indicate that sex biases emerging during early life have profound consequences for social behaviour.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Demography, Population, Sociology, Sex, Human behavior, Sex ratio


Musculoskeletal disease is a common cause of morbidity, but there is a paucity of musculoskeletal research focusing on paediatric populations, particularly in primary care settings. In particular, there is limited information on population consultation frequency in paediatric populations, and frequency varies by age and sex. Few studies have examined paediatric musculoskeletal consultation frequency for different body regions. The objective was to determine the annual consultation prevalence of regional musculoskeletal problems in children in primary care.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Biology, Demography, Population, Metaphysics, Sex ratio