Size-Related Advantages for Reproduction in a Slightly Dimorphic Raptor: Opposite Trends between the Sexes


Dr Fabrizio Sergio, Department of Applied Biology, Estacion Biologica de Doñana, Avda. de Maria Luisa s/n, Pabellon del Perú, 41013 Seville, Spain. E-mail:;


Despite many comparative analyses and more than 20 proposed hypotheses, there is still little consensus over the factors promoting the evolution of reversed sexual dimorphism (RSD) in raptorial species. Furthermore, intrapopulation studies, which may elucidate how RSD is maintained once evolved, have been surprisingly scarce and only focused on a handful of species with medium to high dimorphism. We examined the reproductive advantages associated with body size and condition, measured in the pre-laying period, in a diurnal raptor with low sexual dimorphism, the black kite (Milvus migrans). The study population was essentially monomorphic in size. For females, there was an evidence of reproductive benefits associated with larger size and/or with better body condition. Larger females had also access to higher quality partners and territories, consistent with the ‘intrasexual selection’ hypothesis, by which members of the larger sex enjoy size-related advantages in intrasexual competition over a scarce resource, the smaller sex. Opposite trends emerged for males: smaller, leaner males had higher breeding output, consistent with the ‘small efficient male’ hypothesis. Overall, the fact that we observed in an essentially monomorphic population the same selection pressures previously found in species with marked dimorphism suggests that such reproductive advantages may be counterbalanced in our study model by opposite selection pressures during other stages of the life cycle. This casts some doubts on the evolutionary significance of studies focusing exclusively on reproduction and calls for the need of more comprehensive analyses incorporating trait-mediated differentials in survival and recruitment.