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Polygamy hurt 19th century Mormon wives' evolutionary fitness
Date:2/22/2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Polygamy practiced by some 19th century Mormon men had the curious effect of suppressing the overall offspring numbers of Mormon women in plural marriages, say scientists from Indiana University Bloomington and three other institutions in the March 2011 issue of Evolution and Human Behavior.

Simply put, the more sister-wives a Mormon woman had, the fewer children she was likely to produce.

"Although it's great in terms of number of children for successful males to have harems, the data show that for every new woman added to a male's household, the number each wife produced goes down by one child or so," said IU Bloomington evolutionary biologist Michael Wade, whose theoretical work guided the study. "This regression is known as a 'Bateman gradient,' named after the geneticist who first observed a similar phenomenon in fruit flies."

The paper's coauthors were Jeffrey Moorad (Duke University, Indiana University Ph.D. 2005), Daniel Promislow (University of Georgia), and Ken Smith (University of Utah).

The researchers' survey of birth, marriage and death records from the Utah Population Database covers nearly 186,000 Utah adults and their 630,000 children who lived or died between 1830 and 1894. This period marked an important transition for the nascent Mormon Church, as polygamy began to be phased out in deference to U.S. laws banning the practice but also via internal pressure from the Mormons themselves.

The scientists' study confirmed their expectation that a moratorium on Mormon polygamy would have the effect of decreasing the intensity of sexual selection among males and ultimately bringing the strength of reproductive selection on men closer to that acting on women. With fewer polygamous marriages, more males had access to wives, which led to a decrease in the variation in Mormon males' mating and reproductive success. The scientists estimate that ending polygamy reduced the strength
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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