For many species of reptile, crucial demographic parameters such as embryonic survival and individual sex (male or female) depend on ambient temperature during incubation. While much has been made of the role of climate on offspring sex ratios in species with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), the impact of variable sex ratio on populations is likely to depend on how limiting male numbers are to female fecundity in female biased populations, and whether a climatic effect on embryonic survival overwhelms or interacts with sex ratio. To examine the sensitivity of populations to these interacting factors, we developed a generalized model to explore the effects of embryonic survival, hatchling sex ratio, and the interaction between these, on population size and persistence while varying the levels of male limitation. Populations with TSD reached a greater maximum number of females compared to populations with GSD, although this was often associated with a narrower range of persistence. When survival depended on temperature, TSD populations persisted over a greater range of temperatures than GSD populations. This benefit of TSD was greatly reduced by even modest male limitation, indicating very strong importance of this largely unmeasured biologic factor. Finally, when males were not limiting, a steep relationship between sex ratio and temperature favoured population persistence across a wider range of climates compared to the shallower relationships. The opposite was true when males were limiting – shallow relationships between sex ratio and temperature allowed greater persistence. The results highlight that, if we are to predict the response of populations with TSD to climate change, it is imperative to 1) accurately quantify the extent to which male abundance limits female fecundity, and 2) measure how sex ratios and peak survival coincide over climate.
Boyle, M., HONE, J., Schwanz, L., & GEORGES, A. (2014). Under what conditions do climate-driven sex ratios enhance versus diminish population persistence? Ecology and Evolution, 4(23), 4522-4533. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1316