Royal Society Publishing

Sex differences in energy expenditure in non–human primates

Catherine Key, Caroline Ross


Female mammals bear the energetic costs of gestation and lactation. Therefore, it is often assumed that the overall energetic costs are greater for females than they are for males. However, the energetic costs to males of intrasex competition may also be considerable, particularly if males maintain a much larger body size than females. Using data from 19 non‐human primates, this paper examines the relationship between male and female energetic costs both in the short term (daily energy expenditure) and the long term (the energetic cost of producing a single offspring). It is shown that the major determinant of sex differences in energetic costs is body size dimorphism. In the long term, the energetic costs are often greater for females, but, when male body size exceeds female body size by 60% or more, male energetic costs are greater than those for females. That is, in highly sexually dimorphic species the energetic costs of gestation and lactation for the females are matched by the energetic costs to the males of maintaining a large body size.

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