Climate-driven shifts in adult sex ratios via sex reversals: The type of sex determination matters

Veronika Bókony, Szilvia Kövér, Edina Nemesházi, András Liker, Tamás Székely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (SciVal)


Sex reversals whereby individuals of one genetic sex develop the phenotype of the opposite sex occur in ectothermic vertebrateswith genetic sex-determination systems that are sensitive to extreme temperatures during sexual differentiation. Recent rises in global temperatures have led researchers to predict that sex reversals will become more common, resulting in the distortion of many populations’ sex ratios. However, it is unclear whether susceptibility to climate-driven sex-ratio shifts depends on the type of sex determination that varies across species. First, we show here using individual-based theoretical models that XX/XY (male-heterogametic) and ZZ/ZW(female-heterogametic) sex-determination systems can respond differentially to temperature-induced sex reversals. Interestingly, the impacts of climate warming on adult sex ratio (ASR) depend on the effects of both genotypic and phenotypic sex on survival and reproduction. Second, we analyse the temporal changes of ASR in natural amphibian populations using data from the literature, and find that ASR shifted towards males in ZZ/ZW species over the past 60 years, but did not change significantly in XX/XY species. Our results highlight the fact that we need a better understanding of the interactions between genetic and environmental sex-determining mechanisms to predict the responses of ectotherms to climate change and the associated extinction risks. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Adult sex ratios and reproductive decisions: a critical re-examination of sex differences in human and animal societie.’.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20160325
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1729
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2017


  • Adult sex ratio
  • Amphibians
  • Climate change
  • Masculinization
  • Sex-determination systems
  • Temperature-induced sex reversal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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