• Monkeys and apes;
  • Growth;
  • Life history


This study examines statistical correlations between socioecological variables (including measures of group composition, intermale competition, and habitat preference) and the ontogeny of body size sexual dimorphism in anthropoid primates. A regression-based multivariate measure of dimorphism in body weight ontogeny is derived from a sample of 37 species. Quantitative estimates of covariation between socioecological variables and this multivariate measure are evaluated. Statistically significant covariation between the ontogeny of dimorphism and socioecological variables, with the possible exception of habitat preference, is observed. Sex differences in ontogeny are lacking in species that exhibit low levels of intermale competition and are classifiable as species with monogamous/polyandrous mating systems. Among dimorphic species, two modes of dimorphic growth are apparent, which seem to be related to different kinds of group compositions. Multimale/multifemale species tend to become dimorphic through bimaturism (sex differences in duration of growth) with minimal sex differences in growth rate. Single-male/multifemale species tend to attain dimorphism through differences in rate of growth, often with limited bimaturism. Measures of intermale competition may also covary with these modes of dimorphic growth, but the relations among these variables are sometimes ambiguous.

Correlations between dimorphic growth and behavioral variables may reflect alternative life history strategies in primates. Specifically, the ways in which risks faced by subadult males are distributed and the relations of these risks to growth rates seem to influence the evolution of size ontogenies. The absence of dimorphic ontogeny in some species can be tied to similar distributions of risk in each sex. In taxa that become dimorphic primarily through rate differences in growth, the lifetime distribution of risks for males may change rapidly. In contrast, males may face a pattern of uniformly changing or stable risk in species that become dimorphic through bimaturism. Finally, much variation recorded by this study remains unexplained, providing additional evidence of the need to specially examine female ontogeny before primate body size dimorphism can be satisfactorily explained. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.