Ji, Ting; Hanzhi Zhang; Mark Pagel and Ruth Mace

Sex-biased dispersal has long been of interest to anthropologists and biologists, as it can structure populations and determine patterns of kinship, relatedness and cooperation. In most contemporary human societies, females usually disperse at marriage. In a minority of human societies, male dispersal, bisexual philopatry, or both sexes dispersing is practiced. Previous studies suggest that emergence of either agriculture, cattle pastoralism, or patriliny is associated with female-biased dispersal in certain language families. The ancestral patterns of sexspecific dispersal and its ecological correlates in Sino-Tibetans remain uncertain. Here we use comparative phylogenetic methods to infer the evolutionary history of sex-specific dispersal in Sino-Tibetan groups, and tested for coevolution between subsistence (agriculture and cattle-keeping), descent and sex-specific dispersal. We use a variety of ethnographic and historical sources to identify dispersal strategies across Sino-Tibetan phylogenetic trees (n = 97). We found that 1) earliest Sino-Tibetan groups were likely patrilocal; 2) agriculture likely co-evolved with only female dispersal patterns, but the result is sensitive to alternative coding strategy; 3) there is no evidence that domestic cattle co-evolved with dispersal patterns of either gender; and 4) kinship descent likely co-evolved with female dispersal, but not with male dispersal. Moreover, change from state of "patrilineal" to "non-patrilineal" triggered change in female dispersal patterns, from "female non-stay" to "female stay". Our results suggest that change in descent drove change in female-specific dispersal pattern in Sino-Tibetans. Our findings illustrated how subsistence or descent can play different roles in shaping sex-biased dispersal patterns.