A meta-analysis of the association between male dimorphism and fitness outcomes in humans

  1. Linda H Lidborg  Is a corresponding author
  2. Catharine Penelope Cross
  3. Lynda G Boothroyd
  1. Durham University, United Kingdom
  2. University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

Abstract

Humans are sexually dimorphic: men and women differ in body build and composition, craniofacial structure, and voice pitch, likely mediated in part by developmental testosterone. Sexual selection hypotheses posit that, ancestrally, more 'masculine' men may have acquired more mates and/or sired more viable offspring. Thus far, however, evidence for either association is unclear. Here, we meta-analyze the relationships between six masculine traits and mating/reproductive outcomes (96 studies, 474 effects, N = 177,044). Voice pitch, height, and testosterone all predicted mating; however, strength/muscularity was the strongest and only consistent predictor of both mating and reproduction. Facial masculinity and digit ratios did not significantly predict either. There was no clear evidence for any effects of masculinity on offspring viability. Our findings support arguments that strength/muscularity may be sexually selected in humans, but cast doubt regarding selection for other forms of masculinity and highlight the need to increase tests of evolutionary hypotheses outside of industrialized populations.

Data availability

All data generated and analysed in this article, including complete R code, are available on the Open Science Framework.LH Lidborg, CP Cross & LG Boothroyd (2020)Is male dimorphism under sexual selection in humans? A meta-analysishttps://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/PHC4X

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Linda H Lidborg

    Department of Psychology, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    lhlidborg@gmail.com
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-9667-9326
  2. Catharine Penelope Cross

    School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8110-8408
  3. Lynda G Boothroyd

    Department of Psychology, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

The authors declare that there was no funding for this work.

Reviewing Editor

  1. George H Perry, Pennsylvania State University, United States

Version history

  1. Preprint posted: March 8, 2020 (view preprint)
  2. Received: November 19, 2020
  3. Accepted: February 17, 2022
  4. Accepted Manuscript published: February 18, 2022 (version 1)
  5. Version of Record published: May 13, 2022 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2022, Lidborg et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Metrics

  • 7,487
    views
  • 464
    downloads
  • 24
    citations

Views, downloads and citations are aggregated across all versions of this paper published by eLife.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Cite this article (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

  1. Linda H Lidborg
  2. Catharine Penelope Cross
  3. Lynda G Boothroyd
(2022)
A meta-analysis of the association between male dimorphism and fitness outcomes in humans
eLife 11:e65031.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.65031

Share this article

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.65031

Further reading

    1. Evolutionary Biology
    Raphael Aguillon, Mieka Rinsky ... Oren Levy
    Research Article

    The circadian clock enables anticipation of the day/night cycle in animals ranging from cnidarians to mammals. Circadian rhythms are generated through a transcription-translation feedback loop (TTFL or pacemaker) with CLOCK as a conserved positive factor in animals. However, CLOCK’s functional evolutionary origin and mechanism of action in basal animals are unknown. In the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis, pacemaker gene transcript levels, including NvClk (the Clock ortholog), appear arrhythmic under constant darkness, questioning the role of NvCLK. Utilizing CRISPR/Cas9, we generated a NvClk allele mutant (NvClkΔ), revealing circadian behavior loss under constant dark (DD) or light (LL), while maintaining a 24 hr rhythm under light-dark condition (LD). Transcriptomics analysis revealed distinct rhythmic genes in wild-type (WT) polypsunder LD compared to DD conditions. In LD, NvClkΔ/Δ polyps exhibited comparable numbers of rhythmic genes, but were reduced in DD. Furthermore, under LD, the NvClkΔ/Δ polyps showed alterations in temporal pacemaker gene expression, impacting their potential interactions. Additionally, differential expression of non-rhythmic genes associated with cell division and neuronal differentiation was observed. These findings revealed that a light-responsive pathway can partially compensate for circadian clock disruption, and that the Clock gene has evolved in cnidarians to synchronize rhythmic physiology and behavior with the diel rhythm of the earth’s biosphere.

    1. Computational and Systems Biology
    2. Evolutionary Biology
    Ryan T Bell, Harutyun Sahakyan ... Eugene V Koonin
    Research Article

    A comprehensive census of McrBC systems, among the most common forms of prokaryotic Type IV restriction systems, followed by phylogenetic analysis, reveals their enormous abundance in diverse prokaryotes and a plethora of genomic associations. We focus on a previously uncharacterized branch, which we denote coiled-coil nuclease tandems (CoCoNuTs) for their salient features: the presence of extensive coiled-coil structures and tandem nucleases. The CoCoNuTs alone show extraordinary variety, with three distinct types and multiple subtypes. All CoCoNuTs contain domains predicted to interact with translation system components, such as OB-folds resembling the SmpB protein that binds bacterial transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA), YTH-like domains that might recognize methylated tmRNA, tRNA, or rRNA, and RNA-binding Hsp70 chaperone homologs, along with RNases, such as HEPN domains, all suggesting that the CoCoNuTs target RNA. Many CoCoNuTs might additionally target DNA, via McrC nuclease homologs. Additional restriction systems, such as Type I RM, BREX, and Druantia Type III, are frequently encoded in the same predicted superoperons. In many of these superoperons, CoCoNuTs are likely regulated by cyclic nucleotides, possibly, RNA fragments with cyclic termini, that bind associated CARF (CRISPR-Associated Rossmann Fold) domains. We hypothesize that the CoCoNuTs, together with the ancillary restriction factors, employ an echeloned defense strategy analogous to that of Type III CRISPR-Cas systems, in which an immune response eliminating virus DNA and/or RNA is launched first, but then, if it fails, an abortive infection response leading to PCD/dormancy via host RNA cleavage takes over.