Sex-specific sibling interactions and offspring fitness in vertebrates: patterns and implications for maternal sex ratios.
Vertebrate sex ratios are notorious for their lack of fit to theoretical models, both with respect to the direction and the magnitude of the sex ratio adjustment. The reasons for this are likely to be linked to simplifying assumptions regarding vertebrate life histories. More specifically, if the sex ratio adjustment itself influences offspring fitness, due to sex-specific interactions among offspring, this could affect optimal sex ratios. A review of the literature suggests that sex-specific sibling interactions in vertebrates result from three major causes: (i) sex asymmetries in competitive ability, for example due to sexual dimorphism, (ii) sex-specific cooperation or helping, and (iii) sex asymmetries in non-competitive interactions, for example steroid leakage between fetuses. Incorporating sex-specific sibling interactions into a sex ratio model shows that they will affect maternal sex ratio strategies and, under some conditions, can repress other selection pressures for sex ratio adjustment. Furthermore, sex-specific interactions could also explain patterns of within-brood sex ratio (e.g. in relation to laying order). Failure to take sex-specific sibling interactions into account could partly explain the lack of sex ratio adjustment in accordance with theoretical expectations in vertebrates, and differences among taxa in sex-specific sibling interactions generate predictions for comparative and experimental studies.