Tall men and short women are the most successful at attracting partners and having children, UK researchers say.
Scientists at the Open University based their finding on an analysis of data from 10,000 men and women born in Britain in one week in March 1958.
They found that the taller the men were, the less likely they were to be unmarried or childless 42 years later in 2000.
For women, however, the opposite was true. It was shorter than average women who appeared to be best at finding partners.
The results are thought to explain why men are generally taller than women.
Dr Daniel Nettle, who led the research reported in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B, said: "It seems that tall men and petite women are favoured in evolutionary terms, even in a modern population, so the height difference between men and women is unlikely to disappear."
The study showed that an averagely tall 1.77 metre (5ft 8ins) man was less likely to have children than a man with a height of 1.83 metres (6ft 1ins).
In contrast, women who were most likely to be married and have children by the same age were between 1.51 metres (4ft 9ins) and 1.58 metres (5ft 1ins) tall. This is well below the national average woman's height of 1.62 metres (5ft 3ins).
The findings support earlier research which suggested that women find taller men more attractive, said Dr Nettle.
But for men height was less important than indications of a woman's fertility.
Short women generally reached puberty earlier than tall women, whose fertility was often delayed because of the extra energy they spent growing.
In addition because women prefer men taller than themselves, tall women were left with a smaller pool of potential partners. This contributed to the evolutionary selection of short women.
Dr Nettle said: "We have come to think that men pay attention to physical characteristics of their mates, whilst women pay more attention to status and resources.
"In the case of height, this is clearly not true. In choosing a husband, size matters."