Research at the University of Sheffield, published today in Nature, has solved the mystery of why women live so long after their reproductive years have ceased. Basically, grandmothers can ensure the success of their own family by helping to increase the reproductive success of their adult children, thus propagating their own genes.
Dr. Virpi Lummaa and her PhD student Mirkka lahdenperä, from the University of Sheffield and Turku in Finland, examined the family histories of women in Finland and Canada during the 18th and 19th centuries to determine why humans, unlike other animals, survive long after they are unable to reproduce. In the animal kingdom it is usual for both males and females to continue their reproductive life until they die.
The team found that the longer a woman lived after the end of her reproductive years, the more successfully her children’s reproductive lives would be. These children tended to begin their families earlier, have a shorter gap between children, have a longer reproductive life and produce offspring that were more likely to survive into adulthood. The effect was equal for both sons and daughters.
Lorna Branton | alfa
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