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Keywords:

  • 2D:4D;
  • digit ratio;
  • rowing

Abstract

Fetal and adult testosterone may be vital in the establishment and maintenance of sex-dependent abilities associated with male physical competitiveness. It has been shown that digit ratio (2D:4D) is negatively associated with prenatal testosterone, and it is also negatively associated with ability in sports such as football, skiing, middle distance running, and endurance running, which are dependent upon an efficient cardiovascular system. The relationship between digit ratio and sports requiring high power (physical strength) output in addition to well-developed cardiovascular systems has not been defined. This study investigated this association in male and female young adult rowers. Participants (77 male and 70 female) were student rowers encompassing a range of abilities from the University of Cambridge. Bilateral digit measurements were taken blind from each subject using Mitutoyo vernier calipers. Rowing performance over 2,000 m was assessed using the Concept 2 rowing ergometer. Significant negative correlations were observed between 2,000 m ergometer performance and male digit ratios, which persisted following adjustment for rowing experience and height. However, no such significant association was found in females despite a comparable sample size. Our data indicate that digit ratio is a predictor of ability in rowing, a sport which requires both cardiovascular efficiency and high power output, in males but not females. This in turn suggests that fetal testosterone exposure has long-term effects on traits associated with physical power in males but not females, suggesting a sex-difference in the capacity to respond to such exposures. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.