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Journal Articles Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Year : 2019

Maternal longevity and offspring sex in wild ungulates

Marco Festa-Bianchet
  • Function : Author
Sandra Hamel
  • Function : Author
Daniel Nussey
Steeve Côté
  • Function : Author
Josephine Pemberton
  • Function : Author
Fanie Pelletier
  • Function : Author


In species with sexual size dimorphism, the offspring of the larger sex usually have greater energy requirements and may lead to greater fitness costs for parents. The effects of offspring sex on maternal longevity, however, have only been tested in humans. Human studies produced mixed results and considerable debate mainly owing to the difficulty of distinguishing the effects of sexual dimorphism from sociocultural factors. To advance this debate, we examined how the relative number of sons influenced maternal longevity in four species of free-living ungulates (Soay sheep Ovis aries ; bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis ; red deer, Cervus elaphus ; mountain goat, Oreamnos americanus ), with high male-biased sexual size dimorphism but without complicating sociocultural variables. We found no evidence for a higher cumulative cost of sons than of daughters on maternal longevity. For a given number of offspring, most females with many sons in all four populations lived longer than females with few sons. The higher cost of sons over daughters on maternal lifespan reported by some human studies may be the exception rather than the rule in long-lived iteroparous species.

Dates and versions

hal-04298141 , version 1 (21-11-2023)



Mathieu Douhard, Marco Festa-Bianchet, Sandra Hamel, Daniel Nussey, Steeve Côté, et al.. Maternal longevity and offspring sex in wild ungulates. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2019, 286 (1896), pp.20181968. ⟨10.1098/rspb.2018.1968⟩. ⟨hal-04298141⟩
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