Parasite Stress Predicts Offspring Sex Ratio

Authors: Madhukar Shivajirao Dama

In this study, I predict that the global variation of offspring sex ratio might be influenced in part by the level of parasite stress. From an energetic standpoint, higher gestational costs of producing a male offspring could decrease male births in a population with limited resources. This implies that, any factor that limits the parental resources could be expected to favor female offspring production. Human sex ratio at birth (SRB) is believed to be influenced by numerous socioeconomic, biological, and environmental factors. Here, I test a prediction that parasite stress, by virtue of its effects on the general health condition, may limit the parental investment ability and therefore could influence the SRB at the population level. The statistical analysis supports this prediction, and show that the level of parasite stress has a significant inverse relation with population SRB across the world. Further, this relation is many-folds stronger than the association of SRB with other factors, like; polygyny, fertility, latitude, and son-preference. Hence, I propose that condition affecting ability of parasites (but not adaptive significance) could be a likely causal basis for the striking variation of SRB across populations.

Comments: 18 Pages. This article is accepted for publication in PLOS ONE (August 30, 2012)

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[v1] 2012-09-15 13:56:57

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