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When the relative fitness of sons and daughters differs, sex-allocation theory predicts that it would be adaptive for individuals to adjust their investment in different sexes of offspring. Sex ratio adjustment by females in response to the sexual attractiveness of their mate would be an example of this. In vertebrates the existence of this form of sex ratio adjustment is controversial and may be confounded with sex-biased mortality, particularly in sexually size-dimorphic species. Here we use PCR amplification of a conserved W-chromosome-linked gene to show that the sex ratio within broods of a natural population of sexually size-monomorphic collared flycatchers Ficedula albicollis is related to the size of their father's forehead patch, a heritable secondary sexual character implicated in female choice. Experimental manipulations of paternal investment, which influence the size of his character in future breeding attempts, result in corresponding changes in the sex ratio of offspring born to males in those breeding attempts. In contrast, manipulations of maternal investment have no effect on future sex ratios, and there is no relationship between variables predicting the reproductive value of the brood and nestling sex ratio. Analysis of recruitment of offspring reveals similar patterns of sex ratio bias. The results suggest that female collared flycatchers be able to adjust the sex ratio of eggs ovulated in response to the phenotype of their mate. This finding is most consistent with "genetic quality" models of sexual selection.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





11723 - 11728


Africa, Animals, Biological Evolution, Birds, Choice Behavior, Chromosome Mapping, Feathers, Female, Male, Paternal Behavior, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational, Population, Regression Analysis, Sex Characteristics, Sex Ratio, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Sweden, Vertebrates