Abstract - Sex Bias or Equal Opportunity? Patterns of Maternal Investment in Bison

Green, Wendy C.H. and Rothstein, Aron. 1991. Sex bias or equal opportunity? Patterns of maternal investment in bison. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 29.


In polygynous mammals, it may be adaptive for mothers to invest more in sons and/or to adjust the sex ratio of offspring in relation to body/condition. Calving patterns were examined over an 8-year period (1982-1989) or a population of Bison bison in which barren females are not selectively culled. From these data we tested predictions of the sex ratio adjustment hypothesis as well as two assumptions: (1) that offspring weight at the end of the period of parental investment (PI) is correlated with later condition, and (2) that maternal and offspring condition during the period of PI are correlated. In contrast to predictions, there was little evidence that mothers in better condition bear more sons. Short- and long-term measures of maternal condition (previous reproductive status, age, dominance status, pre-pubertal body weight, ate at first reproduction, birth date, and the duration of the mother's own suckling period) were little related to offspring sex ratio, although the last calves of old females were nearly always female. Similarly, there was little evidence for sex-biased PI. Weights at about 7 months of age were greater for males than females; males also had somewhat later birth dates, suggesting either longer gestation or later conception. However, maternal reproductive costs, as measured by subsequent fecundity, weight loss, and interbirth intervals, did not vary with calf sex. Both assumptions of the model received some support. However, while maternal condition was correlated with offspring condition, there may be sex differences in investment patterns. Mothers appear better able to influence the condition of daughters than of sons. This sex difference may negate any benefit from male-biased investment.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

26611 US Highway 385
Hot Springs, SD 57747


(605) 745-4600

Contact Us