Saturday, April 16, 2016

Facial Width-To-Height Ratio (fWHR) Is Not Associated with Adolescent Testosterone Levels

Facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) has been proposed as a sexually dimorphic signal in humans that develops under the influence of pubertal testosterone (T); however, no studies have examined the association between fWHR and T during the phase in which facial growth is canalized-adolescence. 

In a sample of adolescent Tsimane males, we evaluate the relationship between T, known T-derived traits (i.e. strength and voice pitch), and craniofacial measurements. If fWHR variation derives from T's effect on craniofacial growth during adolescence, several predictions should be supported: 1) fWHR should increase with age as T increases, 2) fWHR should reflect adolescent T (rather than adult T per se), 3) fWHR should exhibit velocity changes during adolescence in parallel with the pubertal spurt in T, 4) fWHR should correlate with T after controlling for age and other potential confounds, and 5) fWHR should show strong associations with other T-derived traits. Only prediction 4 was observed. 

Additionally, we examined three alternative facial masculinity ratios: facial width/lower face height, cheekbone prominence, and facial width/full face height. In contrast to fWHR, all three alternative measures show a strong age-related trend and are associated with both T and T-dependent traits. 

Overall, our results question the status of fWHR as a sexually-selected signal of pubertal T and T-linked traits.

Below:  Facial landmarks used to derive facial masculinity ratios

Below:  Facial masculinity ratios (a/b) by age, testosterone, and strength

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
  • 2Department of Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America. 

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