A trade-off between current and future sex allocation revealed by maternal energy budget in a small mammal

Joanna Rutkowska*, Esa Koskela, Tapio Mappes, John R. Speakman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Sex-allocation theories generally assume differential fitness costs of raising sons and daughters. Yet, experimental confirmation of such costs is scarce and potential mechanisms are rarely addressed. While the most universal measure of physiological costs is energy expenditure, only one study has related the maternal energy budget to experimentally controlled offspring sex. Here, we experimentally test this in the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) by simultaneously manipulating the litter's size and sex ratio immediately after birth. Two weeks after manipulation, when mothers were at the peak of lactation and were pregnant with concurrent litters, we assessed their energy budget. We found that maternal food consumption and daily energy expenditure increased with the size of the litters being lactated. Importantly, the effects of offspring sex on energy budget depended on the characteristics of the simultaneously gestating litters. Specifically, the mothers nursing all-male litters and concurrently pregnant with male-biased litters had the highest energy expenditure. These had consequences for the next generation, as size of female offspring from the concurrent pregnancy of these mothers was compromised. Our study attests a higher cost of sons, consequently leading to a lower investment in them, and reveals the significance of offspring sex in moulding the trade-off between current and future maternal investment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2962-2969
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1720
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2011


  • Bank vole
  • Costly sons
  • Costs of reproduction
  • Daily energy expenditure
  • Doubly labelled water
  • Food consumption


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