body size, burying beetle, competition, evolution, Nicrophorus marginatus, reproductive output, starvation resistance


Body size generally has an important relationship with fitness, whereby larger body size leads to an increase in fitness through competition, reproductive output and survivorship. However, the traits through which body size increases fitness often differ between the sexes. We tested for the effects of body size on fitness in both sexes using three separate experiments on competitive ability, reproductive output and starvation resistance in the burying beetle Nicrophorus marginatus. Results varied between sexes as follows: (1) larger body size increased competitive ability differentially between sexes; (2) female body size, but not male body size, significantly affected reproductive output (small females produced larger broods of smaller offspring, whereas large females produced smaller broods of larger offspring); and (3) large body size was positively associated with starvation resistance, but there was no differential response by sex. This study indicates that there is a complex relationship between body size, sex and fitness, and that multiple fitness parameters need to be tested in both sexes to understand the evolution and importance of body size in a species.

Original Publication Citation

Smith AN, MC Belk. 2018. Does body size affect fitness the same way in males and females? A test of multiple fitness components. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 124:47-55.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Biological Journal of the Linnean Society




Life Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

Included in

Biology Commons