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Scientists Identify Why Some Fathers Are Left Holding the Baby

A study carried out by one of our Marie Curie fellows, Andras Liker, has helped shed light on why shorebirds reverse the roles of the sexes, with males carrying out the parental duties. The story has been featured in Nature Communications and the BBC.

The study, made by the University of Sheffield in collaboration with the University of Bath (both in the UK) and the University of Veszprém (in Hungary), reports that an imbalance between the number of males and females triggers the change - the switch occurs when there is a higher ratio of males to females.

"Sex role reversal has been a formidable puzzle for evolutionary biologists ever since Darwin. Our study is the first supporting the idea that sex ratio plays an important part in the evolution of role reversal," says Andras Liker, co-author of the research.

A century old mystery as to why, for some animals, it's the father rather than the mother that takes care of their young, has been eventually cracked by this researcher and his colleagues.

The research has been supported by almost €275 000 in EU funds. All the money came from an IEF grant, Sexual Selection.

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