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October 2021

Second to fourth digit ratio in elite musicians: Evidence for musical ability as an honest signal of male fitness

Author(s): Manning, J. T.

Journal/Book: Evol Hum Behav. 2000; 21: 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010, USA. Elsevier Science Inc. 1-9.

Abstract: Prenatal testosterone may facilitate musical ability. The ratio of the length of the second and fourth digit (2D:4D) is probably determined in utero and is negatively related to adult testosterone concentrations and sperm numbers per ejaculate. Therefore, 2D:4D may be a marker for prenatal testosterone levels. We tested the association between 2D:4D and musical ability by measuring the ratio in 70 musicians (54 men and 16 women) recruited from a British symphony orchestra. The men had significantly lower 2D:4D ratios (indicating high testosterone) than controls (n = 86). The mean 2D:4D of women did not differ significantly from controls (n = 78). Rankings of musical ability within the orchestra were associated with male 2D:4D thigh rank = low 2D:4D). Differences in 2D:4D ratio were not found among instrument groups, suggesting that 2D:4D was not related to mechanical advantages in playing particular intruments. Concert audiences showed evidence of a female-biased sex ratio in seats close to the orchestra. This preliminary study supports the thesis that music is a sexually selected trait in men that indicates fertilizing capacity and perhaps good genes. However, the association between low 2D:4D ratio and orchestra membership and high status within the orchestra may result from testosterone-mediated competitive ability. Further tests of the association between 2D:4D and musical ability per se are necessary.

Note: Article Manning JT, Univ Liverpool, Dept Med Imaging, Liverpool L69 3BX, Merseyside, ENGLAND

Keyword(s): second to fourth digit ratio; musicians; signal; fitness; SEXUAL SELECTION; EVOLUTION; ASYMMETRY; FAMILY; TWIN


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