Main content area

Sex ratio bias and shared paternity reduce individual fitness and population viability in a critically endangered parrot

Heinsohn, Robert, Olah, George, Webb, Matthew, Peakall, Rod, Stojanovic, Dejan
The journal of animal ecology 2019 v.88 no.4 pp. 502-510
Petaurus breviceps, adults, breeding, females, fledglings, males, mammals, mating systems, models, monogamy, mortality, nesting, parrots, paternity, population dynamics, population viability, predation, reproductive success, sex ratio
Sex‐biased mortality can lead to altered adult sex ratios (ASRs), which may in turn lead to harassment and lower fitness of the rarer sex and changes in the mating system. Female critically endangered swift parrots (Lathamus discolor) suffer high predation while nesting due to an introduced mammalian predator, the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps). High predation on females is causing severe population decline alongside strongly biased adult sex ratios (≥73% male). Our 6‐year study showed that 50.5% of critically endangered swift parrot nests had shared paternity although the birds remained socially monogamous. Shared paternity increased significantly with the local rate of predation on breeding females, suggesting that rates of shared paternity increased when the ASR became more biased. Nests that were not predated produced fewer fledglings as the local ASR became more male‐biased possibly due to higher interference during nesting from unpaired males. Population viability analyses showed that part of the predicted decline in the swift parrot population is due to reduced reproductive success when paternity is shared. The models predicted that the population would decline by 89.4% over three generations if the birds maintained the lowest observed rate of shared paternity. This compares with predicted population reductions of 92.1–94.9% under higher rates of shared paternity. We conclude that biases in the ASR, in this case caused by sex‐specific predation from an introduced predator, can lead to changes in the mating system and negative impacts on both individual fitness and long‐term population viability.