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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1997 May;103(1):37-68.

Intrasexual competition and body weight dimorphism in anthropoid primates.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, Old Westbury 11568, USA.


Body weight dimorphism in anthropoid primates has been thought to be a consequence of sexual selection resulting from male-male competition for access to mates. However, while monogamous anthropoids show low degrees of weight dimorphism, as predicted by the sexual selection hypothesis, polygynous anthropoids show high variation in weight dimorphism that is not associated with measures of mating system or sex ratio. This observation has led many to debate the role of other factors such as dietary constraints, predation pressure, substrate constraints, allometric effects, and phylogeny in the evolution of anthropoid weight dimorphism. Here, we re-evaluate variation in adult body weight dimorphism in anthropoids, testing the sexual selection hypothesis using categorical estimates of the degree of male-male intrasexual competition ("competition levels"). We also test the hypotheses that interspecific variation in body weight dimorphism is associated with female body weight and categorical estimates of diet, substrate use, and phylogeny. Weight dimorphism is strongly associated with competition levels, corroborating the sexual selection hypothesis. Weight dimorphism is positively correlated with increasing female body weight, but evidence suggests that the correlation reflects an interaction between overall size and behavior. Arboreal species are, on average, less dimorphic than terrestrial species, while more frugivorous species tend to be more dimorphic than folivorous or insectivorous species. Several alternative hypotheses can explain these latter results. Weight dimorphism is correlated with taxonomy, but so too are competition levels. We suggest that most taxonomic correlations of weight dimorphism represent "phylogenetic niche conservatism"; however, colobines show consistently low degrees of weight dimorphism for reasons that are not clear.

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