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Sexual Dimorphism in Humans - What You Need to Know

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Sexual dimorphism is the difference between the characteristics of males and females. There are several sexually dimorphic features observed in humans.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ramesh Mohanlal Maheshwari

Published At May 17, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 27, 2024


Humans exhibit many different kinds of physical differences. These variations affect everything from hair color to body shape and size. When we take a look at almost any type of creature, one will notice that there are some pretty big differences between male and female specimens of that species. These anatomical distinctions are referred to as sexual dimorphism in humans. This article will explain exactly what this term means, why it occurs, what happens in human cultures around the world, and whether it has any advantages for individuals or the entire population. Keep reading to learn more about sexual dimorphism in humans and how it affects our species.

What Is Sexual Dimorphism in Humans?

Sexual dimorphism is defined as the differences between male and female organisms biologically within the same species. When scientists refer to sexual dimorphism in humans, they are talking about traits like overall body size, shape and fat distribution, skeletal differences, muscle development, height, and the presence or absence of body hair. While many species exhibit sexual dimorphism, humans are a particularly extreme example, with males being much larger than females across almost all of these traits.

Sexual dimorphism can be thought of as the extreme end of a spectrum that also includes sex differences. In humans, sex differences are the biological variations that occur between males and females. On average male bodies are larger than female bodies and female bodies have more body fat than male bodies. When scientists talk about sexual dimorphism in humans, they are referring to the extreme end of the sex difference spectrum, where males and females look almost completely different from each other.

What Are the Differences in Appearance Between Men and Women?

The main difference in sexual dimorphism between men and women is body size. On average men are taller and heavier when compared to women. The average man is taller than the average woman by 16 percent, and he is also heavier by about 20 percent. Although men are taller and heavier on average, these differences do not apply to every individual man or woman. In fact, studies have shown that adult men are taller than adult women in 99 percent of the world’s cultures. The same is not true for body weight. The majority of cultures show no significant difference in average body weight between adult men and women. In only a few cultures, adult women are, on average, heavier than adult men. Anthropologists who have studied human sexual dimorphism have found that it varies a lot between cultures. There are some cultures in which adult men are, on average, taller than women, while in other cultures, adult women are taller than men. The same variation exists for average body weight. Differences in skin thickness and hair distribution serve to protect males from UV (ultraviolet) solar radiation and females from UV (ultraviolet) solar radiation and cold. Variations in voice pitch and timbre also serve to communicate one’s gender. The differences in sexually dimorphic features are not random or arbitrary; rather, they seem to serve a function. For example, the typical male skeletal structure results in a narrower shoulder-to-hip ratio than the typical female skeletal structure, allowing for greater ease in childbirth.

What Are the Sexual Dimorphism in Facial Features?

Female faces are generally longer and wider than male faces. Female faces also tend to possess a smaller chin and larger eyes relative to male faces. The female trait of having a shorter distance between the eyes and a longer distance between the mouth and chin is likely an indicator of high estrogen and low androgen levels, both of which are associated with high fertility. The male trait of having a long distance between the eyes and a shorter distance between the mouth and chin is likely an indicator of high androgen levels, which are associated with low fertility. Population-wide morphological variation may have an impact on the degree of sexual dimorphism. Because people in small-scale traditional societies encounter fewer different faces and interact socially with potential partners less frequently over the course of their lifetimes.

What Are the Hormonal Reasons for Sexual Dimorphism in Humans?

There are a number of hormones that could be responsible for sexual dimorphism, including androgens, estrogen, and progesterone. Androgens are the group of male sex hormones which is responsible for male secondary sexual characteristics, are present in both males and females, but in males, they are present in higher concentrations. These higher androgen concentrations in males could be responsible for sexual dimorphism in humans, as androgens cause males to develop thicker skin and more hair. Estrogens are responsible for female secondary sexual characteristics and are also present in males but in lower concentrations. Higher estrogen concentrations in males could be responsible for sexual dimorphism in humans, as estrogens cause males to develop thinner skin and less hair. Progesterone is responsible for sexual dimorphism in humans in two ways. First, progesterone affects the anterior pituitary gland and its hormone production, resulting in higher levels of prolactin (a hormone responsible for milk production) in females and higher levels of testosterone in males. Progesterone also increases the likelihood of sex-related diseases, such as breast cancer in females and prostate cancer in males.

What Are the Cultural Reasons for Sexual Dimorphism in Humans?

Sexual dimorphism may be due to cultural factors, such as how males and females are expected to look within a particular society. Other cultural factors that may be responsible for sexual dimorphism include fashion, socialization practices, and the symbolic meaning associated with specific physical characteristics.


Sexual dimorphism generally refers to the differences between the male and female appearance of the same species. It is a common occurrence in nature, with many animals exhibiting strong sexual dimorphism. Humans are no exception, with men and women generally looking different as a result of sexual selection pressure due to mate choice. Sexual dimorphism is not unique to humans, but it is more pronounced in our species than in any other animal. Different human populations exhibit facial dimorphism to varying degrees and in different directions. Studies typically concentrate on adults because sexual dimorphism is still not particularly pronounced before puberty. Overall, the variation in the pattern of facial dimorphism across populations does not appear to be explained by the morphological variability of the face, and the partial explanation offered by sex differences in stature.

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Dr. Ramesh Mohanlal Maheshwari
Dr. Ramesh Mohanlal Maheshwari



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