Chokechaipaisarn C & Gardner A (2022) Density-dependent dispersal promotes female-biased sex allocation in viscous populations. Biology Letters 18, 20220205.
A surprising result emerging from the theory of sex allocation is that the optimal sex ratio is predicted to be completely independent of the rate of dispersal. This striking invariance result has stimulated a huge amount of theoretical and empirical attention in the social evolution literature. However, this sex-allocation invariant has been derived under the assumption that an individual’s dispersal behaviour is not modulated by population density. Here, we investigate how density-dependent dispersal shapes patterns of sex allocation in a viscous-population setting. Specifically, we find that if individuals are able to adjust their dispersal behaviour according to local population density, then they are favoured to do so, and this drives the evolution of female-biased sex allocation. This result obtains because, whereas under density-independent dispersal, population viscosity is associated not only with higher relatedness—which promotes female bias—but also with higher kin competition—which inhibits female bias—under density-dependent dispersal, the kin-competition consequences of a female-biased sex ratio are entirely abolished. We derive analytical results for the full range of group sizes and costs of dispersal, under haploid, diploid and haplodiploid modes of inheritance. These results show that population viscosity promotes female-biased sex ratios in the context of density-dependent dispersal.