Sexual size dimorphism in birds

Tamás Székely, Terje Lislevand, Jordi Figuerola

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section

138 Citations (SciVal)


Birds provide excellent model organisms for testing functional explanations of sexual size dimorphism (SSD), since many species are exceptionally wellstudied in nature. This chapter reviews four major functional hypotheses of SSD, and tests these using data on five morphometric traits from over 2,500 bird species. This comprehensive analysis reveals that SSD is male-biased in most avian species and families, and that allometry consistent with Rensch's rule occurs in significantly more avian families than expected by chance. Using cross-species analyses, the chapter shows that the pattern of SSD is most consistent with patterns of sexual selection, specifically with the Mating competition and the Display agility hypotheses. Sexual selection, however, is unlikely to explain all variation in SSD, and further work is essential on ecological use of resources and fecundity selection.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSex, Size and Gender Roles
Subtitle of host publicationEvolutionary Studies of Sexual Size Dimorphism
EditorsDaphne J. Fairbairn, Wolf U. Blanckehorn, Tamas Szekely
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780191709036, 9780199208784
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Allometry
  • Display agility
  • Mating competition
  • Rensch's rule
  • Sexual selection


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