Key message: A major locus on the long arm of wheat chromosome 4B controls within-spikelet variation in both grain size and seed dormancy, the latter an important survival mechanism likely eliminated from wild wheat during domestication. Abstract: Seed dormancy can increase the probability of survival of at least some progeny under unstable environmental conditions. In wild emmer wheat, only one of the two grains in a spikelet germinates during the first rainy season following maturation; and this within-plant variation in seed dormancy is associated with both grain dimension differences and position within the spikelet. Here, in addition to characterizing these associations, we elucidate the genetic mechanism controlling differential grain dimensions and dormancy within wild tetraploid wheat spikelets using phenotypic data from a wild emmer × durum wheat population and a high-density genetic map. We show that in wild emmer, the lower grain within the spikelet is about 30 % smaller and more dormant than the larger, upper grain that germinates usually within 3 days. We identify a major locus on the long arm of chromosome 4B that explains >40 % of the observed variation in grain dimensions and seed dormancy within spikelets. This locus, designated QGD-4BL, is validated using an independent set of wild emmer × durum wheat genetic stocks. The domesticated variant of this novel locus on chromosome 4B, likely fixed during the process of wheat domestication, favors spikelets with seeds of uniform size and synchronous germination. The identification of locus QGD-4BL enhances our knowledge of the genetic basis of the domestication syndrome of one of our most important crops.