Human skin-color sexual dimorphism: A test of the sexual selection hypothesis



Applied to skin color, the sexual selection hypothesis proposes that male preference for light-skinned females explains the presence of light skin in areas of low solar radiation. According to this proposal, in areas of high solar radiation, natural selection for dark skin overrides the universal preference of males for light females. But in areas in which natural selection ceases to act, sexual selection becomes more important, and causes human populations to become light-skinned, and females to be lighter than males. The sexual selection hypothesis proposes that human sexual dimorphism of skin color should be positively correlated with distance from the equator. We tested the prediction that sexual dimorphism should increase with increasing latitude, using adult-only data sets derived from measurements with standard reflectance spectrophotometric devices. Our analysis failed to support the prediction of a positive correlation between increasing distance from the equator and increased sexual dimorphism. We found no evidence in support of the sexual selection hypothesis. Am J Phys Anthropol 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.