Cortisol advantage of neighbouring the opposite sex in utero

R. Fishman, Y. Vortman, U. Shanas, L. Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Population sex ratios naturally fluctuate around equality. It is argued that the production of an equal number of male and female offspring by individual parents should be favoured by selection, if all costs and benefits are equal. Theoretically, an even sex ratio should yield the highest probability for a fetus to be adjacent to a fetus of the opposite sex in utero. This may cause developmental costs or benefits that have been overlooked. We examined the physiological and developmental parameters associated with in utero sex ratios in the nutria (Myocastor coypus), an invasive wildlife species with a strong reproductive output. Using hair testing, we found that litters with even sex ratios had the highest average cortisol levels. Fetuses neighbouring the opposite sex exhibited longer trunks than those neighbouring the same sex, which might imply better lung development. Our results are the first, to our knowledge, to link intra-utero sex ratios and fetal cortisol and suggest that fetal cortisol might be a mechanism by which even sex ratios are maintained via developmental advantages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number171636
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors.


  • glucocorticoids
  • hair testing
  • intrauterine position
  • sex ratio


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