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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


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


When faced with risky decisions, people typically choose to diversify their choices by allocating resources across a variety of options and thus avoid putting “all their eggs in one basket.” The current research revealed that this tendency is reversed when people face an important cue to mating-related risk: skew in the operational sex ratio, or the ratio of men to women in the local environment. Counter to the typical strategy of choice diversification, findings from four studies demonstrated that the presence of romantically unfavorable sex ratios (those featuring more same-sex than opposite-sex individuals) led heterosexual people to diversify financial resources less and instead concentrate investment in high-risk/high-return options when making lottery, stock-pool, retirement-account, and research-funding decisions. These studies shed light on a key process by which people manage risks to mating success implied by unfavorable interpersonal environments. These choice patterns have important implications for mating behavior as well as other everyday forms of decision making.

Concepts: Decision making, Risk, Sexual dimorphism, Decision theory, Ratio, Decision making software, Sex ratio, Operational sex ratio


Quantifying population status is a key objective in many ecological studies, but is often difficult to achieve for cryptic or elusive species. Here, non-invasive genetic capture-mark-recapture (CMR) methods have become a very important tool to estimate population parameters, such as population size and sex ratio. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is such an elusive species of management concern and is increasingly studied using faecal-based genetic sampling. For unbiased sex ratios or population size estimates, the marking behaviour of otters has to be taken into account. Using 2132 otter faeces of a wild otter population in Upper Lusatia (Saxony, Germany) collected over six years (2006-2012), we studied the marking behaviour and applied closed population CMR models accounting for genetic misidentification to estimate population sizes and sex ratios. We detected a sex difference in the marking behaviour of otters with jelly samples being more often defecated by males and placed actively exposed on frequently used marking sites. Since jelly samples are of higher DNA quality, it is important to not only concentrate on this kind of samples or marking sites and to invest in sufficiently high numbers of repetitions of non-jelly samples to ensure an unbiased sex ratio. Furthermore, otters seemed to increase marking intensity due to the handling of their spraints, hence accounting for this behavioural response could be important. We provided the first precise population size estimate with confidence intervals for Upper Lusatia (for 2012: [Formula: see text] = 20 ± 2.1, 95% CI = 16-25) and showed that spraint densities are not a reliable index for abundances. We further demonstrated that when minks live in sympatry with otters and have comparably high densities, a non-negligible number of supposed otter samples are actually of mink origin. This could severely bias results of otter monitoring if samples are not genetically identified.

Concepts: Sex, Otters, Mustelidae, Sex ratio


Research on endocrine disruption in frog populations, such as shifts in sex ratios and feminization of males, has predominantly focused on agricultural pesticides. Recent evidence suggests that suburban landscapes harbor amphibian populations exhibiting similar levels of endocrine disruption; however the endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) sources are unknown. Here, we show that sex ratios of metamorphosing frogs become increasingly female-dominated along a suburbanization gradient. We further show that suburban ponds are frequently contaminated by the classical estrogen estrone and a variety of EDCs produced by plants (phytoestrogens), and that the diversity of organic EDCs is correlated with the extent of developed land use and cultivated lawn and gardens around a pond. Our work also raises the possibility that trace-element contamination associated with human land use around suburban ponds may be contributing to the estrogenic load within suburban freshwaters and constitutes another source of estrogenic exposure for wildlife. These data suggest novel, unexplored pathways of EDC contamination in human-altered environments. In particular, we propose that vegetation changes associated with suburban neighborhoods (e.g., from forests to lawns and ornamental plants) increase the distribution of phytoestrogens in surface waters. The result of frog sex ratios varying as a function of human land use implicates a role for environmental modulation of sexual differentiation in amphibians, which are assumed to only have genetic sex determination. Overall, we show that endocrine disruption is widespread in suburban frog populations and that the causes are likely diverse.

Concepts: Breast cancer, Sex, Estradiol, Xenoestrogen, Endocrine system, Endocrine disruptor, Amphibian, Sex ratio