Sexual selection explains Rensch's rule of size dimorphism in shorebirds

T Szekely, R P Freckleton, J D Reynolds

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185 Citations (SciVal)


Sexual size dimorphism shows a remarkably widespread relationship to body size in the animal kingdom: within lineages, it decreases with size when females are the larger sex, but it increases with size when males are the larger sex. Here we demonstrate that this pattern, termed Rensch's rule, exists in shorebirds and allies (Charadriides), and it is determined by two components of sexual selection: the intensity of sexual selection acting on males and the agility of the males'display. These effects are interactive so that the effect of sexual selection on size dimorphism depends on male agility. As a control, we also examine dimorphism in bill length, which is a functionally selected trait. As such, dimorphism in bill length neither exhibits Rensch's rule nor is associated with sexual selection and display. Our results show that variation among taxa in the direction and magnitude of sexual size dimorphism, as manifested as Rensch's rule, can be explained by the interaction between the form and strength of sexual selection acting on each sex in relation to body size.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12224-12227
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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