Human Journey

Bigger Is Better–Except When It Isn’t

Photo by Michael Nichols


In news certain to raise the insecurities of men everywhere, scientists have determined that size does, in fact, matter to females–at least among gorillas.  Conservationists with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology found that male western lowland gorillas with larger body lengths, head crests and gluteal (backside) muscles were more appealing to female gorillas as mates.

Whether or not female gorillas prefer to go to smaller-sized males when they need a shoulder to cry on remains an open question, however.

In other size-related news, researchers from Harvard University report that the biggest animals aren’t necessarily the fastest. “Typically, bigger animals tend to run faster than smaller animals, because they have longer legs,” said head researcher Christofer J. Clemente. “But this only works up to a point. The fastest land animal is neither the biggest nor the smallest, but something in between. Think about the size of an elephant, a mouse and a cheetah.” The researchers studied monitor lizards and found that midsize lizards tended to be the fleetest of foot. “Larger lizards’ legs can no longer support their body weight, and they have to change their style of running, making them slower,” Clemente said.

For all the latest science news, check out the National Geographic’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

Since 2005, Michael has been a librarian at National Geographic.

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