3,972 research outputs found

    Fitness benefits of prolonged post-reproductive lifespan in women

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    Most animals reproduce until they die, but in humans, females can survive long after ceasing reproduction. In theory, a prolonged post-reproductive lifespan will evolve when females can gain greater fitness by increasing the success of their offspring than by continuing to breed themselves. Although reproductive success is known to decline in old age, it is unknown whether women gain fitness by prolonging lifespan post-reproduction. Using complete multi-generational demographic records, we show that women with a prolonged post-reproductive lifespan have more grandchildren, and hence greater fitness, in pre-modern populations of both Finns and Canadians. This fitness benefit arises because post-reproductive mothers enhance the lifetime reproductive success of their offspring by allowing them to breed earlier, more frequently and more successfully. Finally, the fitness benefits of prolonged lifespan diminish as the reproductive output of offspring declines. This suggests that in female humans, selection for deferred ageing should wane when one's own offspring become post-reproductive and, correspondingly, we show that rates of female mortality accelerate as their offspring terminate reproduction

    Sexual dimorphism in postcranial skeletal shape suggests male‐biased specialization for physical competition in anthropoid primates

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    Sexual dimorphism often arises as a response to selection on traits that improve a male's ability to physically compete for access to mates. In primates, sexual dimorphism in body mass and canine size is more common in species with intense male–male competition. However, in addition to these traits, other musculoskeletal adaptations may improve male fighting performance. Postcranial traits that increase strength, agility, and maneuverability may also be under selection. To test the hypothesis that males, as compared to females, are more specialized for physical competition in their postcranial anatomy, we compared sex‐specific skeletal shape using a set of functional indices predicted to improve fighting performance. Across species, we found significant sexual dimorphism in a subset of these indices, indicating the presence of skeletal shape sexual dimorphism in our sample of anthropoid primates. Mean skeletal shape sexual dimorphism was positively correlated with sexual dimorphism in body size, an indicator of the intensity of male–male competition, even when controlling for both body mass and phylogenetic relatedness. These results suggest that selection on male fighting ability has played a role in the evolution of postcranial sexual dimorphism in primates