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Sex ratio and maternal rank in wild spider monkeys: when daughters disperse

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
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  • Social Sciences


Data from a long-term field study of the spider monkey, Ateles paniscus , in Peru indicate that a strongly female-biased sex ratio exists from birth in this population. Of 46 infants born between July 1981 and June 1986, 12 were male, 32 were female and 2 were of undetermined sex. This effect is consistent between years as well, with more females than males born in each year of the study (Table 1). This bias is driven by the fact that low-ranking females produce daughters almost exclusively, while high-ranking females bias their investment somewhat less strongly towards sons (Table 2). The unusual pattern of female-biased maternal investment observed in this population of Ateles probably occurs for a combination of the following reasons: (1) maternal investment in individual male offspring is somewhat greater than in individual female offspring; (2) males remain with their natal groups, and the sons of high-ranking females are likely to be competitively superior to the sons of low-ranking females; (3) males compete for mates, and only the one or two most dominant males within a community are likely to achieve significant reproductive success. Two possible mechanisms of sex-ratio adjustment and the evidence for each are discussed.

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