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Keywords:

  • Body size;
  • habitat use;
  • phylogeny;
  • polygyny;
  • sex

Abstract Jarman (1974) proposed a series of relationships between habitat use, food dispersion, and social behavior and hypothesized a series of evolutionary steps leading to sexual dimorphism in body size through sexual selection in African antelope species. The hypothesis states that sexual size dimorphism evolved in a three-step process. Initially, ancestral monomorphic and monogamous ungulate species occupying closed habitats radiated into open grassland habitats. Polygynous mating systems then rapidly evolved in response to the aggregation of males and females, perhaps in relation to the clumped distribution of food resources in open habitats. Subsequently, size dimorphism evolved in those species occupying open habitats, but not in species that remained in closed habitats or retained monogamy. This hypothesis has played an important role in explaining the origins of sexual dimorphism in mammals. However, the temporal sequence of the events that Jarman proposed has never been demonstrated. Here we use a phylogeny of extant ungulate species, along with maximum-likelihood statistical techniques, to provide a test of Jarman's hypothesis.