Divorce and infidelity are associated with skewed adult sex ratios in birds

Andras Liker, Robert P. Freckleton, Tamas Székely

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Adult sex ratio (ASR) is a fundamental concept in population demography, and recent theory suggests that ASR plays a central role in social behavior, mating systems, and parental care [1-6]. Unbalanced ASRs are predicted to influence pair-bond and mating behavior, since the rarer sex in the population has more potential partners to mate with than the more common sex [1, 4]. Here we use phylogenetic comparative analyses to test whether ASR is related to three major aspects of mating behavior: divorce, social polygamy, and pair-bond infidelity. ASR is strongly correlated with long-term pair bonds, since the divorce rate is higher in species with a female-biased sex ratio, indicating that mate change by pair members and/or breaking of pair bonds by unmated individuals is more frequent when females outnumber males. Short-term pair bonds are also associated with unbalanced ASRs: males are more commonly polygamous when females outnumber males, and conversely, females are more polygamous when males outnumber females. Furthermore, infidelity increases with male-biased ASR in socially monogamous birds, suggesting that male coercion and/or female willingness to cheat the partner are facilitated by male-biased ASR. Our results provide the first comprehensive support for the proposition that ASR influences multiple aspects of pair-bond and mating behavior in wild populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-884
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number8
Early online date20 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


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