Temporal but not spatial environmental variation drives adaptive offspring sex allocation in a plural cooperative breeder

Rubenstein, Dustin Reid

Cooperatively breeding birds have been used frequently to study sex allocation because the adaptive value of the sexes partly depends upon the costs and benefits for parents of receiving help. I examined patterns of directional sex allocation in relation to maternal condition (Trivers‐Willard hypothesis), territory quality (helper competition hypothesis), and the number of available helpers (helper repayment hypothesis) in the superb starling, Lamprotornis superbus, a plural cooperative breeder with helpers of both sexes. Superb starlings biased their offspring sex ratio in relation to prebreeding rainfall, which was correlated with maternal condition. Mothers produced relatively more female offspring in wetter years, when they were in better condition, and more male offspring in drier years, when they were in poorer condition. There was no relationship between offspring sex ratio and territory quality or the number of available helpers. Although helping was male biased, females had a greater variance in reproductive success than males. These results are consistent with the Trivers‐Willard hypothesis and suggest that although females in most cooperatively breeding species make sex allocation decisions to increase their future direct reproductive success, female superb starlings appear to base this decision on their current body condition to increase their own inclusive fitness.


Also Published In

The American Naturalist

More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Published Here
June 24, 2014