More On Grandmothers and Human Longevity

Why are humans so very long-lived - albeit nowhere near as long-lived as we'd like - in comparison to other similarly-sized mammals? "The grandmother hypothesis proposes that postreproductive longevity evolved because it is selectively advantageous for females to stop reproducing and to help raise their grandchildren. The mother hypothesis states that postmenopausal longevity evolved because it is advantageous for women to cease reproduction and concentrate their resources and energy in raising the children already produced. ... we test the mother and the grandmother hypotheses with a historical data set from which we bootstrapped random samples of women from different families who lived from the 1500s to the 1900s in the central valley of Costa Rica. ... Here we show that although longevity positively affects a woman's fertility, it negatively affects her daughter's fertility; for this reason, the heritability of longevity is unexpectedly high. Our data provide strong grounds for questioning the universality of the grandmother hypothesis and for supporting the mother hypothesis as a likely explanation for the evolution of human postreproductive longevity."


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