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Concept: Sexual dimorphism


The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue.

Concepts: Genetics, Male, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Gamete, Hermaphrodite


BACKGROUND: Females have often been shown to exhibit preferences for certain male traits. However, little is known about behavioural rules females use when searching for mates in their natural habitat. We investigated mate sampling tactics and related costs in the territorial strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) possessing a lek-like mating system, where both sequential and simultaneous sampling might occur. We continuously monitored the sampling pattern and behaviour of females during the complete period between two successive matings. RESULTS: We found no evidence that females compared males by visiting them. Instead females mated with the closest calling male irrespective of his acoustic and physical traits, and territory size. Playback experiments in the natural home ranges of receptive females revealed that tested females preferred the nearest speaker and did not discriminate between low and high call rates or dominant frequencies. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that females of O. pumilio prefer the closest calling male in the studied population. We hypothesize that the sampling tactic in this population is affected by 1) a strongly female biased sex ratio and 2) a low variance in traits of available males due to strong male-male competition, preventing low quality males from defending a territory and mating.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Gamete, Poison dart frog


Melanin is the main pigment in animal coloration and considerable variation in the concentrations of the two melanin forms (pheo- and eumlanin) in pigmented tissues exists among populations and individuals. Melanin-based coloration is receiving increasing attention particularly in socio-sexual communication contexts because the melanocortin system has been hypothesized to provide a mechanistic basis for covariation between coloration and fitness traits. However, with few notable exceptions, little detailed information is available on inter-individual and inter-population variation in melanin pigmentation and on its environmental, genetic and ontogenetic components. Here, we investigate melanin-based coloration in an Italian population of a passerine bird, the barn swallow (), its sex- and age-related variation, and heritability. The concentrations of eu- and pheomelanin in the throat (brown) and belly (white-to-brownish) feathers differed between sexes but not according to age. The relative concentration of either melanin (Pheo:Eu) differed between sexes in throat but not in belly feathers, and the concentrations in males compared to females were larger in belly than in throat feathers. There were weak correlations between the concentrations of melanins within as well as among plumage regions. Coloration of belly feathers was predicted by the concentration of both melanins whereas coloration of throat feathers was only predicted by pheomelanin in females. In addition, Pheo:Eu predicted coloration of throat feathers in females and that of belly feathers in males. Finally, we found high heritability of color of throat feathers. Melanization was found to differ from that recorded in from Scotland or from from North America. Hence, present results show that pigmentation strategies vary in a complex manner according to sex and plumage region, and also among geographical populations, potentially reflecting adaptation to different natural and sexual selection regimes, and that some coloration components seem to be highly heritable.

Concepts: Genetics, Male, Sexual dimorphism, Bird, Sex, Melanin, Pigment, Barn Swallow


Much evidence indicates that men experienced an evolutionary history of physical competition, both one-on-one and in coalitions. We thus hypothesized that, compared to girls and women, boys and men will possess a greater motivational predisposition to be interested in sports, especially team sports. According to most scholars, advocacy groups, and the United States courts, however, this hypothesis is challenged by modest sex differences in organized school sports participation in the contemporary U.S., where females comprise 42% of high school participants and 43% of intercollegiate participants. We conducted three studies to test whether organized school sports participation data underestimate the actual sex difference in sports participation. Study 1 analyzed the American Time Use Survey, which interviewed 112,000 individuals regarding their activities during one day. Females accounted for 51% of exercise (i.e., non-competitive) participations, 24% of total sports participations, and 20% of team sports participations. These sex differences were similar for older and younger age groups. Study 2 was based on systematic observations of sports and exercise at 41 public parks in four states. Females accounted for 37% of exercise participations, 19% of individual sports participations, and 10% of team sports participations. Study 3 involved surveying colleges and universities about intramural sports, which primarily consist of undergraduate participation in team sports. Across 34 institutions, females accounted for 26% of registrations. Nine institutions provided historical data, and these did not indicate that the sex difference is diminishing. Therefore, although efforts to ensure more equitable access to sports in the U.S. (i.e., Title IX) have produced many benefits, patterns of sports participation do not challenge the hypothesis of a large sex difference in interest and participation in physical competition.

Concepts: Scientific method, Male, Female, United States, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Observation


Antisocial and criminal behaviors are multifactorial traits whose interpretation relies on multiple disciplines. Since these interpretations may have social, moral and legal implications, a constant review of the evidence is necessary before any scientific claim is considered as truth. A recent study proposed that men with wider faces relative to facial height (fWHR) are more likely to develop unethical behaviour mediated by a psychological sense of power. This research was based on reports suggesting that sexual dimorphism and selection would be responsible for a correlation between fWHR and aggression. Here we show that 4,960 individuals from 94 modern human populations belonging to a vast array of genetic and cultural contexts do not display significant amounts of fWHR sexual dimorphism. Further analyses using populations with associated ethnographical records as well as samples of male prisoners of the Mexico City Federal Penitentiary condemned by crimes of variable level of inter-personal aggression (homicide, robbery, and minor faults) did not show significant evidence, suggesting that populations/individuals with higher levels of bellicosity, aggressive behaviour, or power-mediated behaviour display greater fWHR. Finally, a regression analysis of fWHR on individual’s fitness showed no significant correlation between this facial trait and reproductive success. Overall, our results suggest that facial attributes are poor predictors of aggressive behaviour, or at least, that sexual selection was weak enough to leave a signal on patterns of between- and within-sex and population facial variation.

Concepts: Psychology, Genetics, Natural selection, Sexual dimorphism, Aggression, World population


Molecular sexing revealed an unexpectedly strong female bias in the sex ratio of pre-breeding European Storm Petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus), attracted to playback of conspecific calls during their northwards migration past SW Europe. This bias was consistent across seven years, ranging from 80.8% to 89.7% female (mean annual sex ratio ± SD = 85.5% female ±4.1%). The sex ratio did not differ significantly from unity (i.e., 50% female) among (i) Storm Petrel chicks at a breeding colony in NW France, (ii) adults found dead on beaches in Southern Portugal, (iii) breeding birds attending nest burrows in the UK, captured by hand, and (iv) adults captured near a breeding colony in the UK using copies of the same sound recordings as used in Southern Europe, indicating that females are not inherently more strongly attracted to playback calls than males. A morphological discriminant function analysis failed to provide a good separation of the sexes, showing the importance of molecular sexing for this species. We found no sex difference in the seasonal or nocturnal timing of migration past Southern Europe, but there was a significant tendency for birds to be caught in sex-specific aggregations. The preponderance of females captured in Southern Europe suggests that the sexes may differ in migration route or in their colony-prospecting behaviour during migration, at sites far away from their natal colonies. Such differences in migration behaviour between males and females are poorly understood but have implications for the vulnerability of seabirds to pollution and environmental change at sea during the non-breeding season.

Concepts: Male, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Seabird, Procellariiformes, Storm-petrel


Conclusive evidence for sexual dimorphism in non-avian dinosaurs has been elusive. Here it is shown that dimorphism in the shape of the dermal plates of Stegosaurus mjosi (Upper Jurassic, western USA) does not result from non-sex-related individual, interspecific, or ontogenetic variation and is most likely a sexually dimorphic feature. One morph possessed wide, oval plates 45% larger in surface area than the tall, narrow plates of the other morph. Intermediate morphologies are lacking as principal component analysis supports marked size- and shape-based dimorphism. In contrast, many non-sex-related individual variations are expected to show intermediate morphologies. Taphonomy of a new quarry in Montana (JRDI 5ES Quarry) shows that at least five individuals were buried in a single horizon and were not brought together by water or scavenger transportation. This new site demonstrates co-existence, and possibly suggests sociality, between two morphs that only show dimorphism in their plates. Without evidence for niche partitioning, it is unlikely that the two morphs represent different species. Histology of the new specimens in combination with studies on previous specimens indicates that both morphs occur in fully-grown individuals. Therefore, the dimorphism is not a result of ontogenetic change. Furthermore, the two morphs of plates do not simply come from different positions on the back of a single individual. Plates from all positions on the body can be classified as one of the two morphs, and previously discovered, isolated specimens possess only one morph of plates. Based on the seemingly display-oriented morphology of plates, female mate choice was likely the driving evolutionary mechanism rather than male-male competition. Dinosaur ornamentation possibly served similar functions to the ornamentation of modern species. Comparisons to ornamentation involved in sexual selection of extant species, such as the horns of bovids, may be appropriate in predicting the function of some dinosaur ornamentation.

Concepts: Sexual dimorphism, Sexual selection, Ronald Fisher, Sexuality, Dinosaur, Jurassic, Stegosaurus, Morrison Formation


Competition is one of the most cited mechanisms to explain secondary sexual dimorphism in animals. Nonetheless, it has been proposed that sexual dimorphism in bat wings is also a result of adaptive pressures to compensate additional weight caused by fetus or pup carrying during the reproductive period of females. The main objective of this study is to verify the existence of sexual dimorphism in Sturnira lilium wings. We employed geometric morphometrics techniques using anatomical landmarks superimposition to obtain size (Centroid Size) and shape variables of wings, which were reduced by Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA). We also employed classical morphometrics using wing length measurements to compare efficiency between these two morphometric approaches and make comparisons using wing area measurements. LDA indicated significant differences between wing shapes of males and females, with 91% (stepwise classification) and 80% (leave-one-out cross validation) of correct classification. However, the size variable obtained did not contribute to such classifications. We have observed larger areas in female wings, but we found no differences in wing length measurements and no allometric effects in wing length, shape and area measurements. Interestingly, our study has provided evidences of morphological differences where classical morphometrics have failed. LDA and area measurements analyses revealed that females have a different area distribution in distinct portions of the wing, with wider dactylopatagia and plagiopatagia, and wingtips more triangular than males. No differences in body length or relative wing length were observed between the sexes, but pregnant females have more body weight than non-pregnant females and males. Our findings suggest that sexual dimorphism in the wing shape of S. lilium is probably related to the increase in flight efficiency of females during reproductive period. It decreases wing loading in specific portions of the wing and reduces energy cost to maintain a faster and maneuverable flight.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Wing, Morphometrics


The abundance of sperm relative to eggs selects for males that maximize their number of mates and for females that choose high quality males. However, in many species, males exercise mate choice, even when they invest little in their offspring. Sexual cannibalism may promote male choosiness by limiting the number of females a male can inseminate and by biasing the sex ratio toward females because, while females can reenter the mating pool, cannibalized males cannot. These effects may be insufficient for male choosiness to evolve, however, if males face low sequential encounter rates with females. We hypothesized that sexual cannibalism should facilitate the evolution of male choosiness in group living species because a male is likely to encounter multiple receptive females simultaneously. We tested this hypothesis in a colonial orb-weaving spider, Cyrtophora citricola, with a high rate of sexual cannibalism. We tested whether mated females would mate with multiple males, and thereby shift the operational sex ratio toward females. We also investigated whether either sex chooses mates based on nutritional state and age, and whether males choose females based on reproductive state. We found that females are readily polyandrous and exhibit no mate choice related to male feeding or age. Males courted more often when the male was older and the female was younger, and males copulated more often with well-fed females. The data show that males are choosier than females for the traits we measured, supporting our hypothesis that group living and sexual cannibalism may together promote the evolution of male mate choice.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Sex, Spermatozoon, Mating


Despite international advancements in gender equality across a variety of societal domains, the underrepresentation of girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related fields persists. In this study, we explored the possibility that the sex difference in mathematics anxiety contributes to this disparity. More specifically, we tested a number of predictions from the prominent gender stratification model, which is the leading psychological theory of cross-national patterns of sex differences in mathematics anxiety and performance. To this end, we analyzed data from 761,655 15-year old students across 68 nations who participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Most importantly and contra predictions, we showed that economically developed and more gender equal countries have a lower overall level of mathematics anxiety, and yet a larger national sex difference in mathematics anxiety relative to less developed countries. Further, although relatively more mothers work in STEM fields in more developed countries, these parents valued, on average, mathematical competence more in their sons than their daughters. The proportion of mothers working in STEM was unrelated to sex differences in mathematics anxiety or performance. We propose that the gender stratification model fails to account for these national patterns and that an alternative model is needed. In the discussion, we suggest how an interaction between socio-cultural values and sex-specific psychological traits can better explain these patterns. We also discuss implications for policies aiming to increase girls' STEM participation.

Concepts: Male, Mathematics, Sexual dimorphism, Gender, Developed country, Sex, Cyprus, Sexual differentiation