Ontogeny and diachronic changes in sexual dimorphism in the craniofacial skeleton of rhesus macaques from Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. Academic Article uri icon


  • Insight into the ontogeny of sexual dimorphism is important to our understanding of life history, ecology, and evolution in primates. This study applied a three-dimensional method, Euclidean Distance Matrix Analysis, to investigate sexual dimorphism and its diachronic changes in rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) skulls. Twenty-one landmarks in four functional areas of the craniofacial skeleton were digitized from macaques of known age and sex from the Cayo Santiago collections. Then, a series of mean form matrices, form difference matrices, and growth matrices were computed to demonstrate growth curves, rates and duration of growth, and sexual dimorphism within the neurocranium, basicranium, palate, and face. The inclusion of fully adult animals revealed a full profile of sexual dimorphism. Additionally, we demonstrate for the first time diachronic change in adult sexual dimorphism caused by extended growth in adult females. A quicker growth rate in males from ages 2 to 8 was offset by a longer duration of growth in adult females that resulted in diminished dimorphism between the ages of 8 and 15. Four functional areas showed different sex-specific growth patterns, and the rate and duration of growth in the anterior facial skeleton contributed most to the changing profiles of sexual dimorphism. The late maturation in size of the female facial skeleton corresponds to later and less complete fusion of facial sutures. The prolongation of growth in females is hypothesized to be an evolutionary response to high levels of intrasexual competition, as is found in other primate species such as common chimpanzees with similar colony structure and reproductive behavior. Further investigation is required to determine (1) if this phenomenon observed in craniofacial skeletons is linked to sexual dimorphism in body size, and (2) whether this diachronic change in sexual dimorphism is species specific. The changing profile of sexual dimorphism in adult rhesus macaques suggests caution in studying sexual dimorphism in fossil primate and human forms.

published proceedings

  • J Hum Evol

author list (cited authors)

  • Wang, Q., Dechow, P. C., & Hens, S. M.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Wang, Qian||Dechow, Paul C||Hens, Samantha M

publication date

  • October 2007