Sexual dimorphism in digit-length ratios of laboratory mice



The lengths of the index finger (2D) and ring finger (4D) are sexually dimorphic in humans, and men have a smaller 2D:4D ratio compared to women. Prenatal androgens appear to be important in the development of the 2D:4D sex difference, since it has been reported in children as young as 2 years old, and since humans exposed to supernormal prenatal androgen levels display a smaller 2D:4D ratio. We tested whether another mammalian species in which the process of peripheral sexual differentiation is androgen-dependent might also show a sex difference in digit ratios. The 2D:4D ratio of adult outbred mice was calculated for both the left and right rear paws. A sex difference was observed in the right rear paw: female mice had a larger 2D:4D ratio than did males. We also found this difference in prepubescent weanling mice. This sex difference is in the same direction as that observed in humans, and suggests that sexual dimorphism in digit length ratios is a feature common to many, if not all, mammals. The mouse may therefore be a useful animal model for studying the factors that influence finger length patterns, which have recently been correlated with several specific behaviors and disease predispositions in humans. Anat Rec 267:231–234, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.