U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Ecology and Evolution. 2023;13:e10136.

DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10136


U.S. government work


Skewed sex ratios at birth are widely reported in wild populations, however, the extent to which parents are able to modulate the sex ratio of offspring to maximize their own fitness remains unclear. This is particularly true for highly polytocous species as maximizing fitness may include trade-offs between sex ratio and the size and number of offspring in litters. In such cases, it may be adaptive for mothers to adjust both the number of offspring per litter and offspring sex to maximize individual fitness. Investigating maternal sex allocation in wild pigs (Sus scrofa) under stochastic environmental conditions, we predicted that under favorable conditions, high-quality mothers (larger and older) would produce male-biased litters and invest more in producing larger litters with more males. We also predicted sex ratio would vary relative to litter size, with a male-bias among smaller litters. We found evidence that increasing wild boar ancestry, maternal age and condition, and resource availability may weakly contribute to male-biased sex ratio, however, unknown factors not measured in this study are assumed to be more influential. High-quality mothers allocated more resources to litter production, but this relationship was driven by adjustment of litter size, not sex ratio. There was no relationship between sex ratio and litter size. Collectively, our results emphasized that adjustment of litter size appeared to be the primary reproductive characteristic manipulated in wild pigs to increase fitness rather than adjustment of offspring sex ratio.