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Men shed light on the mystery of human longevity, study finds
Date:9/13/2007

to show that selection favors survival for as long as men reproduce." The scientists presented a "range of data showing that males much older than 50 years have substantial realized fertility through matings with younger females, a pattern that was likely typical among early humans." As a result, Puleston said, older male fertility helps to select against damaging cell mutations in humans who have passed the age of female menopause, consequently eliminating the "wall of death."

"Our analysis shows that old-age male fertility allows evolution to breach Hamilton's wall of death and predicts a gradual rise in mortality after the age of female menopause without relying on 'grandmother' effects or economic optimality," the researchers say in the paper.

The scientists compiled longevity and fertility data from two hunter-gatherer groups, the Dobe !Kung of the Kalahari and the Ache of Paraguay, one of the most isolated populations in the world. They also looked at the forager-farmer Yanomamo of Brazil and Venezuela, and the Tsimane, an indigenous group in Bolivia. "They're living a lifestyle that our ancestors lived and their fertility patterns are probably most consistent with our ancestors," Puleston said about the four groups. The study also looked at several farming villages in Gambia and, for comparison, a group of modern Canadians.

In the less developed, traditional societies, males were as much as 5-to-15 years older than their female partners. In the United States and Europe, the age spread was about two years. "It's a universal pattern that in typical marriages men are older than women," Puleston said. "The age gaps vary by culture, but in every group we looked at men start [being sexually reproductive] later. At the end of reproduction, male fertility rates taper off gradually, as opposed to the fairly sharp decline in female fertility by menopause."

Despite small differences based on marriage tradition
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Contact: Lisa Trei
lisatrei@stanford.edu
650-725-0224
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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