Secondary sex ratios do not support maternal manipulation: extensive data from laboratory colonies of spiny mice (Muridae:Acomys)


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Abstract

Spiny mice of the genus Acomys (Muridae) represent a very suitable mammalian model for studying factors influencing the secondary sex ratio (SSR). The maternal effort in these rodents is extremely biased in favour of the prenatal period and, therefore, maternal manipulation of the SSR is potentially more advantageous. We studied the SSR in four populations/species of spiny mice kept in family groups consisting of two closely related females, one non-relative male and their descendants. The groups were established from founding animals aged about 3 months (maturing age) and were allowed to breed freely for several months. Each litter was sexed after birth, and relevant data were thoroughly recorded. Altogether, data were collected on 1684 litters: 189 of Acomys sp. from Iran, 203 of A. cilicicus, 875 of A. cahirinus, and 417 of A. dimidiatus. We recorded the sex of 4048 newborns of which 1995 were males and 2053 were females. The overall sex ratio was close to 1:1 (49.2%). Generalized linear mixed models and/or generalized linear models were constructed to evaluate the effect of four life history and eight social variables on the sex ratio. No consistent effects of these variables on the sex ratio were found and, interestingly, none of the variables associated with maternal life history had any effect on the sex ratio. Three factors associated with group composition (i.e. the number of immature males, the number of immature females and the number of breeding females) did have significant effects on the sex ratio, but these effects were not consistent across the studied species. In conclusion, our evaluation of this large dataset revealed that the sex ratio in spiny mice is surprisingly stable.

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