Different Sex Allocations in Two Related Species: The Case of the Extant Hippopotamus

PLUHÁČEK, Jan a STECK, B. Different Sex Allocations in Two Related Species: The Case of the Extant Hippopotamus. Ethology, 2015, 121, 462-471. ISSN 0179-1613.
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Social and reproductive systems remain among the main predictors affecting mammalian birth sex ratio. The two extant hippopotamus species differ in their social and reproductive systems. While common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) form herds and tend to be polygynous, solitary living pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) are promiscuous. Although it is one of the most studied topics, only few empirical studies using large sample sizes have reported distorted birth sex ratio. We examined the birth sex ratio in both hippopotamus species using international studbooks including large data sets exceeding a thousand individuals (1138 for common hippopotamus and 1161 for pygmy ones). In both species, the birth sex ratio differed from 1:1. Whereas more males than females were recorded in common hippopotamus (53.9% males), the opposite was found in pygmy hippopotamus (41.5% males). We also found that the birth sex ratio was affected by individual dams in common hippopotamus, and by individual sires in pygmy hippopotamus. The most plausible explanation for differentially skewed birth sex ratios in both species may be related to differences in social and reproductive systems. Whereas the polygynous, sexually dimorphic common hippopotamus biased the birth sex ratio towards males, the promiscuous and sexually monomorphic pygmy hippopotamus skewed the sex ratio in favour of females. Our results are in line with recent studies showing that not only manipulation by the mother (in common hippopotamus), but also by the father (in pygmy hippopotamus), may be responsible for the birth sex ratio in different species.

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