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A Cautionary Tale: Cryptic Sexual Size Dimorphism in a Socially Monogamous Passerine
  • Michael T. Murphy, Portland State University
Document Type
Publication Date
  • Eastern Kingbird,
  • Passerines,
  • Dimorphism (Animals)
Among socially monogamous birds, standard metrics suggest that males are only ∼5% larger than females. An untested assumption is that, with the exception of reproductive systems, males and females are scaled mirror images of one another. I used external morphological and skeletal data, and information on muscle mass and organ size, to test this assumption in a population of breeding Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus). Male and female Eastern Kingbirds exhibited no differences in body mass or standard measures of size, except in a longer (∼6%) wing chord and tail in males. However, keel length, a character rarely measured in the field, was 9.7% larger in males. In principal component analysis, overall body size (PC1) failed to differ between the sexes unless keel length was included. Analysis of 16 skeletal characters also showed that only the bones associated with flight were larger in males. However, the most significant differences between the sexes was that lean dry pectoral muscle mass (LDPMM) was nearly 30% greater in males, whereas the alimentary tract was 27.5% heavier in females. Females also carried more fat. In both sexes, LDPMM scaled in a positive allometric manner with body mass (i.e., slope > 1.0), but the significantly higher slope of males suggested especially strong selection for large muscle mass and, presumably, greater power generation during flight. Eastern Kingbirds thus exhibit pronounced cryptic sexual size dimorphism, but it is not clear whether natural or sexual selection is responsible. These data call for a broader perspective for measuring and a re-evaluation of sexual size dimorphism in other socially monogamous species.

This is the publisher's final PDF. © 2007 by the Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press.

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Citation Information
Michael T. Murphy. "A Cautionary Tale: Cryptic Sexual Size Dimorphism in a Socially Monogamous Passerine" Auk (2007)
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