Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Translocation reverses birth sex ratio bias depending on its timing during gestation: evidence for the action of two sex-allocation mechanisms

W. L. Linklater

A Present address: Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 140, New Zealand.

B Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

C Email:

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 19(7) 831-839
Submitted: 11 February 2007  Accepted: 21 May 2007   Published: 8 August 2007


Many sex allocation mechanisms are proposed but rarely have researchers considered and tested more than one at a time. Four facultative birth sex ratio (BSR) adjustment mechanisms are considered: (1) hormone-induced conception bias; (2) sex-differential embryo death from excess glucose metabolism; (3) sex-differential embryo death from embryo–uterine developmental asynchrony; and (4) pregnancy hormone suppression and resource deprivation. All mechanisms could be switched on by the corticoadrenal stress response. A total of 104 female rhinoceroses (Rhinocerotidae), translocated from 1961 to 2004 at different stages of gestation or conceived soon after arrival in captivity, were used to test for a reversal in BSR bias as evidence for the action of multiple sex-allocation mechanisms. Translocation induced a statistically significant BSR reversal between early gestation (86% male births from 0 to 0.19 gestation) and mid-gestation (38% male from 0.2 to 0.79 gestation). Captivity also induced a strongly male-biased (67% male) BSR for conceptions after arrival in captivity. The results indicate the action of at least two sex-allocation mechanisms operating in sequence, confirm the important role of sex-differential embryo death around implantation and of stress in sex allocation, and lend support to suggestions that sex-differential glucose metabolism by the preimplantation embryo likely plays a role in facultative BSR adjustment.

Additional keywords: conception, embryo, mammal, rhinoceros, stress, zoo studbook


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