Environmental variation shapes sexual dimorphism in red deer

Eric Post, Rolf Langvatn, Mads C. Forchhammer, Nils Chr Stenseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sexual dimorphism results from dichotomous selection on male and female strategies of growth in relation to reproduction. In polygynous mammals, these strategies reflect sexual selection on males for access to females and competitive selection on females for access to food. Consequently, in such species, males display rapid early growth to large adult size, whereas females invest in condition and early sexual maturity at the expense of size. Hence, the magnitude of adult size dimorphism should be susceptible to divergence of the sexes in response to environmental factors differentially influencing their growth to reproduction. We show that divergent growth of male and female red deer after 32 years of winter warming and 15 years of contemporaneously earlier plant phenology support this prediction. In response to warmer climate during their early development, males grew more rapidly and increased in size, while female size declined. Conversely, females, but not males, responded to earlier plant phenology with increased investment in condition and earlier reproduction. Accordingly, adult size dimorphism increased in relation to warmer climate, whereas it declined in relation to forage quality. Thus, the evolutionary trajectories of growth related to reproduction in the sexes (i) originate from sexual and competitive selection, (ii) produce sexual size dimorphism, and (iii) are molded by environmental variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4467-4471
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume96
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 13 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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