Sexual dimorphism and ontogenetic allometry of soft tissues in Rattus norvegicus

S. A. Stewart, R. Z. German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Most studies of sexual dimorphism in mammals focus on overall body size. However, relatively little is known about the differences in growth trajectories that produce dimorphism in organ and muscle size. We weighed six organs and four muscles in Rattus norvegicus to determine what heterochronic and allometric scaling differences exist between the sexes. This cross-sectional growth study included 113 males and 109 females with ages ranging from birth to 200 days of age. All muscle and organ weights were ultimately greater in males than in females, because males grew for a longer period of time, had a greater maximum rate of growth, and spent more time near the maximum rate. No ontogenetic scaling differences existed between the sexes in organ weight except for lungs and gonads. During growth, organ weights were negatively allometric to body weight. No scaling differences relative to body weight existed between the sexes for muscles; however, there was variation in the allometric relations among muscles relative to body weight. Sexual dimorphism in muscles and organs appears to be a size difference resulting from differences in the duration and rates of growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Allometry
  • Heterochrony
  • Muscles
  • Organs
  • Rat
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Anatomy


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