Birds do it, bees do it, and yes, even chimpanzees do it. They all dote on their young. And now a new theory of aging suggests that nurturing offspring is just as important as fertility and reproduction for the evolution of a species longevity and long-term survival.
The new theory, proposed by Ronald D. Lee, Ph.D., of University of California, Berkeley, suggests that natural selection favors animals capable of devoting energy and resources to insuring survival of the next generation. After birth, all mammals including primates, all birds, many insects and some fish nurture their offspring. Post-reproductive bottle nose dolphins and pilot whales, for instance, babysit, guard and even breastfeed their grandchildren. And in certain primates, the gender that provides the primary care to offspring tends to have a higher life expectancy. This suggests that nurturing behavior and longevity evolved together over time.
The hypothesis appears in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition the week of July 14, (doi:10.1073/pnas.1530303100). This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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