Parental food conditions affect sex-specific embryo mortality in the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis)

Pérez, C., Velando, A. & Domínguez, J. Parental food conditions affect sex-specific embryo mortality in the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis). Journal of Ornithology 147, 513–519 (2006).


Different mortality of males and females during early post-hatching development in sexually size-dimorphic bird species is usually attributed to different nutritional requirements of the sexes, because mortality is mostly biassed toward the larger sex. We investigated whether sex-specific embryo mortality in the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis), a size-dimorphic seabird, depends on parental condition. To test this, we experimentally modified parental nutritional conditions by supplementary feeding of yellow legged gulls during egg formation, to evaluate sex-biassed environmental sensitivity of gull embryos. We found that eggs were larger in supplemented clutches, but egg size did not affect embryo survival. Survival of male gull embryos was more related to parental food conditions than was survival of female embryos. Survival of male embryos in supplemented clutches was greater than in unsupplemented clutches whereas survival of female embryos was similar in both groups. Because size at hatching was similar in both sexes our results suggest that male phenotype disadvantage is not exclusively linked to the energy demands of size-dimorphic development at the embryo stage.

Female body condition and brood sex ratio in yellow-legged gulls Larus cachinnans

Alonso-Alvarez, C. & Velando, A. Female body condition and brood sex ratio in yellow-legged gulls Larus cachinnans. Ibis 145, 220–226 (2003).


In the Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans), males are the larger sex, and show more reproductive variance than females. We predicted that the proportion of male chicks in a brood should increase with female body condition. We investigated brood sex ratio by using DNA markers taken from samples of hatchlings or dead embryos, and female body condition using plasma cholesterol concentration as a reliable indicator. The brood sex ratio of females in good condition was male biased and the sex ratio of females in poor condition was female biased. This relationship was also significant in those nests where all the eggs laid were sexed. Thus, manipulation of embryo mortality cannot explain the biases reported in this study, suggesting that the sex ratio of the eggs was biased prior to laying. These results confirm that sex-ratio manipulation in gulls operates under natural conditions, and supports earlier experimental findings.