Sex ratios at birth or hatching in snake populations are often assumed to be 1∶1 in agreement with Fisherian theory. We evaluated secondary sex ratios (SSRs) in two viperids (Sistrurus catenatus and S. miliarius) and four natricine colubrids (Nerodia rhombifer, Thamnophis proximus, T. radix, and T. sirtalis). We captured 274 gravid females that produced 2443 living offspring. Population-level SSRs in our focal species did not differ significantly from 1∶1. In addition, variation in individual litter SSRs conformed to expectations generated by the binomial distribution with an even sex ratio. Each species showed individual variation in SSRs; however, the majority of variation in litter SSRs was not explained by variation in the maternal or litter characteristics we examined. The three exceptions were a very strong negative association between mean offspring mass and litter SSR in T. radix (r2 = 0.96), a strong positive association between mean offspring mass and litter sex ratio in T. proximus (r2 = 0.40), and a strong positive association between maternal condition and litter SSR in T. proximus (r2 = 0.40). Whether or not these relationships have functional or adaptive significance warrants further study. The majority of our results were unsurprising and not statistically significant. We suggest, however, that the presentation and publication of both non-significant and significant results is exactly what is needed to give an accurate view of SSRs at both the population level and the maternal level in snakes.
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Vol. 2011 • No. 4