The number of competitor species is unlinked to sexual dimorphism

Shai Meiri, Amy E. Kadison, Maria Novosolov, Panayiotis Pafilis, Johannes Foufopoulos, Yuval Itescu, Pasquale Raia, Daniel Pincheira-Donoso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) can allow males and females of the same species to specialize on different sized food items and therefore minimize intraspecific competition. Interspecific competition, however, is thought to limit sexual dimorphism, as larger competitors in the community will prevent the larger sex from evolving larger size, and smaller species may prevent the smaller sex from becoming even smaller. We tested this prediction using data on the sexual size dimorphism of lizards, and mammalian carnivores, on islands world-wide. Because insular communities are depauperate, and guilds are species-poor, it is often assumed that enhanced sexual size dimorphism is common on islands. The intensity of interspecific competition, hindering enhanced dimorphism, is thought to increase with competitor richness. We tested whether intraspecific sexual size dimorphism of mammalian carnivores and lizards decreases with increasing island species richness. We further computed the average sexual dimorphism of species on islands and tested whether species-rich islands are inhabited by relatively monomorphic species. Within families and guilds across carnivores and lizards, and with both intraspecific and interspecific approaches, we consistently failed to find support for the notion that species-poor islands harbour more sexually dimorphic individuals or species. We conclude that either interspecific competition does not affect the sexual size dimorphism of insular lizards and carnivores (i.e. character displacement and species sorting are rare in these taxa), or that the number of species in an assemblage or guild is a poor proxy for the intensity of interspecific competition in insular assemblages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1302-1312
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 British Ecological Society.


  • Carnivora
  • Character displacement
  • Interspecific competition
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Islands
  • Lizards
  • Species sorting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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