In other words, human evolution has resulted in an extended life span without complementary extended reproduction.
"Why hasn't reproduction kept pace with the general increase in human longevity" It may be because there hasn't been anything for natural selection to act on, though there is heritable variation in age of menopause," Emery Thompson says. "However, it may be that the advantage older females gain by assisting their grandchildren outstrips any advantage they might get by reproducing themselves."
The oldest known wild chimpanzee, who died earlier this year at approximately age 63, gave birth to her last offspring just eight years ago, at about 55. Female chimpanzees only give birth every 6 to 8 years, on average, and they generally begin reproducing at age 13 to 15. This makes the chimpanzee reproductive profile much longer and flatter than that of humans, whose procreation is concentrated from age 25 to 35.
Emery Thompson and her colleagues gathered data from six wild chimpanzee populations in Tanzania, Uganda, Guinea, and Gambia. They compared these chimpanzees' fertility patterns to those seen among two well-studied human foraging populations, in Botswana and Paraguay.
|Contact: Steve Bradt|