Review of Sex, Size & Gender Roles: Evolutionary Studies of Sexual Size Dimorphism

Document Type

Book Review

Publication Date


Publication Title

Quarterly Review of Biology






Since Darwin’s Decent of Man (1874), biologists have been fascinated by the evolutionary pro-cesses that produce and maintain sexual size dimorphisms (SSD). This excellent volume is filled with the most current and stimulating re-search on SSD. It is separated into three sec-tions. The first section contains six chapters that review macroevolutionary patterns of variation across major taxonomic groups (e.g., reptiles, birds, and insects). These chapters assess the role of sexual selection as a contributor to SSD and test Rensch’s rule. Section II has eight chap-ters that explore microevolutionary processes that might be responsible for SSD (e.g., fecun-dity selection, genetic constraints, and differen-tial equilibrium). In some ways, these chapters are the backbone of the book because they pro-vide a synthesis of the proximate selection pat-terns that generate SSD and, thus, present an organizational framework to further explore how the wide variation in SSD arises in certain species (Chapters 8 to 11) or populations (Chap-ters 12 through 15). Section III explores the developmental and genetic mechanisms respon-sible for SSD. Unlike earlier sections, these five chapters do not address the adaptive value or generation of SSD; rather, the authors explore how growth trajectories and morphologies are generated during gene expression and develop-ment. This section was particularly thought-provoking because these issues are fundamen-tally important, yet have received less attention than other areas of SSD research.