A meta-analysis of the association between male dimorphism and fitness outcomes in humans

Linda H Lidborg*, Catharine Penelope Cross, Lynda G Boothroyd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


Humans are sexually dimorphic: men and women differ in body build and composition, craniofacial structure, and voice pitch, likely mediated in part by developmental testosterone. Sexual selection hypotheses posit that, ancestrally, more 'masculine' men may have acquired more mates and/or sired more viable offspring. Thus far, however, evidence for either association is unclear. Here, we meta-analyze the relationships between six masculine traits and mating/reproductive outcomes (96 studies, 474 effects, N = 177,044). Voice pitch, height, and testosterone all predicted mating; however, strength/muscularity was the strongest and only consistent predictor of both mating and reproduction. Facial masculinity and digit ratios did not significantly predict either. There was no clear evidence for any effects of masculinity on offspring viability. Our findings support arguments that strength/muscularity may be sexually selected in humans, but cast doubt regarding selection for other forms of masculinity and highlight the need to increase tests of evolutionary hypotheses outside of industrialized populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere65031
Number of pages33
Early online date18 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2022


  • Sexual selection
  • Human evolution
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Masculinity
  • Mating success
  • Reproductive success


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