Gestational experience alters sex allocation in the subsequent generation Academic Article uri icon


  • Empirical tests of adaptive maternal sex allocation hypotheses have presented inconsistent results in mammals. The possibility that mothers are constrained in their ability to adjust sex ratios could explain some of the remaining variation. Maternal effects, the influence of the maternal phenotype or genotype on her developing offspring, may constrain sex allocation through physiological changes in response to the gestational environment. We tested if maternal effects constrain future parental sex allocation through a lowered gestational stress environment in laboratory mice. Females that experienced lowered stress as embryos in utero gave birth to female-biased litters as adults, with no change to litter size. Changes in offspring sex ratio was linked to peri-conceptual glucose, as those females that had increasing blood glucose peri-conceptionally gave birth to litters with a higher male to female sex ratio. There was, however, no effect of the lowered prenatal stress for developing male embryos and their sperm sex ratio when adult. We discuss the implications of maternal effects and maternal stress environment on the lifelong physiology of the offspring, particularly as a constraint on later maternal sex allocation.


  • Edwards, AM
  • Cameron, EZ
  • Pereira, JC
  • Wapstra, E
  • Ferguson-Smith, MA
  • Horton, SR
  • Thomasson, K

publication date

  • 2016