Sex ratios deviate across killifish species without clear links to life history

Sex ratios deviate across killifish species without clear links to life history

  • Will Sowersby, Alejandro Gonzalez-Voyer & Björn Rogell 

Evolutionary Ecology – volume 34, pages411–426(2020)


Sex ratios can differ from an expected equal proportion of males and females, carrying substantial implications for our understanding of how mating systems evolve. Typically, macro-evolutionary studies have been conducted without assessing how deviations from an equal sex ratio could be explained by sex-biased mortality or dispersal. Our understanding of sex ratio evolution independent of these confounds, in addition to any putative links between skewed sex ratios and other factors (e.g. life history), therefore remains largely unexplored. Here, we conducted an exploratory study investigating differences in sex ratios across closely related species while controlling for extrinsic mortality. We also tested two factors, non-overlapping/overlapping generations and the social environment, which have both been hypothesised to affect sex ratios. Specifically, we raised 15 species of killifish, which have either overlapping or discrete generations, under both solitary and social treatments. We found substantial divergences in sex ratios across closely related species, which exhibited both male and female biases. In conjunction with a low phylogenetic signal, our results suggest that sex ratios can evolve rapidly in this group. However, we found no evidence that overlapping generations or the social environment affected sex biases, suggesting that other factors drive the rapid evolution of sex ratios in killifishes.

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