Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Ants have something like a single fertile female to several males. The same applies to bees, and larger animals - elephants too. Is the sex ratio universally skewed in favour of the female? What animal species exhibit this ?

share|improve this question
You mean for animals, right? You get all sorts of crazy sex ratios (and crazy sexes!) going on in plants. – Oreotrephes Jul 20 '13 at 12:11
So just to be clear, you're looking for animals who have sex ratios of male:female <1:>1 in the population, right? Sex ratios within broods, as opposed to within populations can behave strangely. – Oreotrephes Jul 20 '13 at 12:22
@Oreotrephes: Yep. Thanks. Just updated the title – Everyone Jul 20 '13 at 12:59

It is advantageous to have a skew towards more males. Males can be expendable as they are only required briefly for impregnation and can then focus on providing resources for the mother and young and protection. This breaks down when this is no longer the case, for example in humans we are closer to a 50/50 divide.

This article notes that in aphids, there are twice as many females as males, the same is true for daphnia. I don't think the reason behind this is known. In reptiles, the female to male ratio can depend on temperature of incubation thus this can lead to strong fluctuations.

An interesting principle is Fisher's principle:

Fisher’s principle explains why for most species, the sex ratio is approximately 1:1. Bill Hamilton expounded Fisher’s argument in his 1967 paper on “Extraordinary sex ratios” as follows, given the assumption of equal parental expenditure on offspring of both sexes. Suppose male births are less common than female. A newborn male then has better mating prospects than a newborn female, and therefore can expect to have more offspring. Therefore parents genetically disposed to produce males tend to have more than average numbers of grandchildren born to them. Therefore the genes for male-producing tendencies spread, and male births become more common. As the 1:1 sex ratio is approached, the advantage associated with producing males dies away. The same reasoning holds if females are substituted for males throughout. Therefore 1:1 is the equilibrium ratio. Source

share|improve this answer
At least in some species, aphids have nested parthenogenic vivipary, that is, a female may be pregnant with a female child who is pregnant. Of course, this can result in rapid population growth, and if selected for would explain a higher female ratio. – Oreotrephes Jul 20 '13 at 16:55

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.