The proportion of male births has been shown to be over 50% in temperate climates around the world. Given that fluctuations in ambient temperature have previously been shown to affect sex allocation in humans, we examined the hypothesis that ambient temperature predicts fluctuations in the proportion of male births in New Zealand.
We tested three main hypotheses using time series analyses. Firstly, we used historical annual data in New Zealand spanning 1876–2009 to test for a positive effect of ambient temperature on the proportion of male births. The proportion of males born ranged by 3.17%, from 0.504 to 0.520, but no significant relationship was observed between male birth rates and mean annual temperature in the concurrent or previous years. Secondly, we examined whether changes in annual ambient temperature were negatively related to the proportion of male stillbirths from 1929–2009 and whether the proportion of male stillbirths negatively affected the proportion of male live births. We found no evidence that fewer male stillbirths occurred during warmer concurrent or previous years, though a declining trend in the proportion of male stillbirths was observed throughout the data. Thirdly, we tested whether seasonal ambient temperatures, or deviations from those seasonal patterns, were positively related to the proportion of male births using monthly data from 1980–2009. Patterns of male and female births are seasonal, but very similar throughout the year, resulting in a non-seasonal proportion of male births. However, no cross correlations between proportion of male births and lags of temperature were significant.
Results showed, across all hypotheses under examination, that ambient temperatures were not related to the proportion of male births or the proportion of male stillbirths in New Zealand. While there is evidence that temperature may influence human sex allocation elsewhere, such effects of temperature are not universal.