Exposure to male-dominated environments during development influences sperm sex ratios at sexual maturity

Misha D. Lavoie, Jamie N. Tedeschi, Francisco Garcia-Gonzalez, Renée C. Firman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Different stages during development are important when it comes to phenotypic adjustments in response to external stimuli. Critical stages in mammals are the prenatal phase, where embryos are exposed to a milieu of sex steroid hormones, and the early-postnatal phase, where littermates interact and experience their incipient social environment. Further, the postmaternal environment will influence the development of traits that are linked to reproductive success in adulthood. Accumulated evidence of male-driven sex allocation establishes the currently untested hypothesis that the sperm sex ratio is a plastic trait that can be mediated to align with prevailing social conditions. Here, we used natural variation in the maternal environment and experimentally manipulated the postmaternal environment to identify the importance of these developmental phases on sperm sex ratio adjustments in wild house mice (Mus musculus domesticus). We found that male density in both environments was predictive of sperm sex ratios at sexual maturity: males from more male-biased litters and males maturing under high male density produced elevated levels of Y-chromosome-bearing sperm. Our findings indicate that the sperm sex ratio is a variable phenotypic trait that responds to the external environment, and highlight the potential that these adjustments function as a mechanism of male-driven sex allocation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-402
Number of pages11
JournalEvolution Letters
Issue number4
Early online date27 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


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