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Modeling the effects of weaning age on length of female reproductive period: Implications for the evolution of human life history.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  21538649     Owner:  NLM     Status:  Publisher    
OBJECTIVES: Human life history is unique among primates. Despite our extended lifespan, the length of the female reproductive period is shorter in humans than in our closest living relatives, chimpanzees. Here, we investigate whether this difference could be explained by another unique aspect of human life history-a young weaning age. METHODS: Age-dependent female fertility is modeled with the Brass polynomial. We model female reproductive period length as single locus with multiple alleles. Selection acts on the length of the female reproductive period in an evolutionary agent-based simulation. We quantify the effect of weaning age on the optimal length of the female reproductive period under a range of adult mortality rates. RESULTS: Females sacrifice a smaller proportion of their reproductive potential due to nursing by weaning their offspring at younger ages. As a consequence, the optimal length of the female reproductive period decreases as weaning age decreases, even when adult mortality is low. CONCLUSIONS: Natural selection will favor mutations or strategies that can decrease weaning age without incurring fitness costs. In the presence of younger weaning ages, selection favors a shorter female reproductive period. To the extent that allocare can decrease weaning age without decreasing fitness, its ubiquity in human societies and near absence in other primate societies may explain why women have a shorter reproductive period. Furthermore, allocare may have provided human ancestors with an avenue to decreased weaning age-and, ultimately, a shorter female reproductive period-that was unavailable to their hominoid contemporaries. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 2011. © 2011Wiley-Liss, Inc.
A Friederike Kachel; L S Premo; Jean-Jacques Hublin
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Publication Detail:
Type:  JOURNAL ARTICLE     Date:  2011-4-27
Journal Detail:
Title:  American journal of human biology : the official journal of the Human Biology Council     Volume:  -     ISSN:  1520-6300     ISO Abbreviation:  -     Publication Date:  2011 Apr 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2011-5-3     Completed Date:  -     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  8915029     Medline TA:  Am J Hum Biol     Country:  -    
Other Details:
Languages:  ENG     Pagination:  -     Citation Subset:  -    
Copyright Information:
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany; MaxNetAging Research School, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Konrad-Zuse-Strasse 1, 18057 Rostock, Germany.
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