The energy costs of sexual dimorphism in mole-rats are morphological not behavioural.

Michael Scantlebury, J.R. Speakman, N.C. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Different reproductive strategies of males and females may lead to the evolution of differences in their energetic costs of reproduction, overall energetic requirements and physiological performances. Sexual dimorphism is often associated with costly behaviours (e.g. large males might have a competitive advantage in fighting, which is energetically expensive). However, few studies of mammals have directly compared the energy costs of reproductive activities between sexes. We compared the daily energy expenditure (DEE) and resting metabolic rate (RMR) of males and females of two species of mole-rat, Bathyergus janetta and Georychus capensis (the former is sexually dimorphic in body size and the latter is not) during a period of intense digging when males seek females. We hypothesized that large body size might be indicative of greater digging or fighting capabilities, and hence greater mass-independent DEE values in males of the sexually dimorphic species. In contrast to this prediction, although absolute values of DEE were greater in B. janetta males, mass-independent values were not. No differences were apparent between sexes in G. capensis. By comparison, although RMR values were greater in B. janetta than G. capensis, no differences were apparent between the sexes for either species. The energy cost of dimorphism is most likely to be the cost of maintenance of a large body size, and not the cost of behaviours performed when an individual is large.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences (1934-1990)
Volume273 (1582)
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006


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