The California Academy of Sciences Presents

Big Men: Why Does Height Matter?

Lecture by Nina Jablonski, Ph.D., on May 9, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (February 22, 2005) - Why is that tall men appear to be more successful than shorter ones? In terms of evolution, at least, tall men are more successful. In several large-scale surveys covering a range of cultures, a strong positive association has been documented between height, status, and the number of offspring a man fathers. Height is also a major determinant of male attractiveness to females. Why is this so? In many species of mammals, tall stature during bipedal displays and fights is a major determinant of the outcome of dominance displays between males. Because these displays are often influential in determining which males have mating rights, imposing stature has been favored by natural selection in many lineages of mammals, including our closest relatives, the African apes.

On Monday, May 9, Academy scientist Nina Jablonski will survey the importance of bipedal displays in mammals and explore the idea that bipedal displays may have been a major contributing factor in the evolution of a habitually bipedal posture among humans. She will then examine the association between tall stature and social status in humans, reviewing height-associated behaviors and surveying headwear through time. Jablonski argues that the universal importance of male tallness is of great antiquity, and that the positive relationship between above-normal male stature, enhanced social status, and increased reproductive success is due to the importance of height and displays of height in settling dominance disputes in humans and other animals. The Irvine Chair and Curator of Anthropology at the Academy, Jablonski has published several papers about the role of bipedal displays in the evolution of habitual bipedalism among humans.

Big Men: Why Does Height Matter? Lecture by Nina Jablonski, Ph.D., Irvine Chair & Curator of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences. Monday, May 9 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm. $8; California Academy of Sciences; 875 Howard Street, San Francisco, 94103. For tickets, call (415) 379-8000.


The California Academy of Sciences, the fourth largest natural history museum in the United States, is home to Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium and the Natural History Museum. The Academy is beginning an extensive rebuilding project in Golden Gate Park. Pritzker prize-winning architect Renzo Piano is designing the new Academy, which is expected to open in 2008.

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