Digit ratio and hand-grip strength in German and Mizos men: Cross-cultural evidence for an organizing effect of prenatal testosterone on strength



The ratio of the length of the second and fourth digits (2D:4D), a putative proxy of prenatal testosterone (PT), is correlated with measures of physical fitness. The relationship between the organizing effect of PT on physical fitness is likely to arise as a response to intrasexual male competition for females. Physical strength is also likely to be important in intrasexual conflict, but nothing is known concerning the relationship between 2D:4D and strength. The strength of an individual is strongly influenced by body size, and 2D:4D is strongly dependent on ethnicity. We present evidence that strength, as measured from hand-grip strength, is related to 2D:4D in samples from two ethnic groups (52 Caucasian men from Germany, and 88 Oriental Mizos men from northeast India) which differed markedly in size. We found that 1) the German men were heavier and stronger, but had higher 2D:4D (lower PT) than the Mizos men; 2) a median split for grip strength into low (LGS) and high (HGS) groups showed that for right-hand 2D:4D (but not left-hand 2D:4D), the LGS men had higher 2D:4D than the HGS men; and 3) the relationships between right 2D:4D and grip strength were independent of ethnicity, age, height, and weight. Measures of grip strength correlate strongly with strength in other muscle groups, so we conclude that PT may have an early organizing effect on strength in men, and this is likely to be widespread in human groups. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 18:776–782, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.