Trivers and Willard proposed that offspring sex ratio should vary with maternal condition when condition, meant as maternal capacity to care, has different fitness consequences for sons and daughters. In polygynous and dimorphic species, mothers in good condition should preferentially produce sons, whereas mothers in poor condition should produce more daughters. Despite its logical appeal, support for this hypothesis has been inconsistent. Sex-ratio variation may be influenced by additional factors, such as environmental conditions and previous reproduction, which are often ignored in empirical studies. We analysed 39 years of data on bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) that fit all the assumptions of the Trivers–Willard hypothesis. Production of sons increased with maternal condition only for mothers that weaned a son the previous year. This relationship likely reflects a mother's ability to bear the higher reproductive costs of sons. The interaction between maternal condition and previous weaning success on the probability of producing a son was independent of the positive effect of paternal reproductive success. Maternal and paternal effects accounted for similar proportions of the variance in offspring sex. Maternal reproductive history should be considered in addition to current condition in studies of sex allocation.
- Received June 14, 2016.
- Accepted July 18, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
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