Sex differences in age-to-maturation relate to sexual selection and adult sex ratios in birds

Sergio Ancona, András Liker, M. Cristina Carmona-isunza, Tamás Székely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Maturation (the age when organisms are physiologically capable of breeding) is one of the major life history traits that have pervasive implications for reproductive strategies, fitness, and population growth. Sex differences in maturation are common in nature, although the causes of such differences are not understood. Fisher and Lack proposed that delayed maturation in males is expected when males are under intense sexual selection, but their proposition has never been tested across a wide range of taxa. By using phylogenetic comparative analyses and the most comprehensive dataset to date, including 201 species from 59 avian families, we show that intense sexual selection on males (as indicated by polygamous mating and male‐skewed sexual size dimorphism) correlates with delayed maturation. We also show that the adult sex ratio (ASR), an indicator of the social environment, is associated with sex‐specific maturation because in species with a female‐skewed ASR, males experience later maturation. Phylogenetic path analyses suggest that adult sex ratio drives interspecific changes in the intensity of sexual selection which, in turn, influences maturation. These results are robust to alternative phylogenetic hypotheses and to potential life‐history confounds, and they provide the first comprehensive support of Fisher's and Lack's propositions. Importantly, our work suggests that both social environment and mate competition influence the evolution of a major life history trait, maturation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-53
JournalEvolution Letters
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020

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