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Proc Biol Sci. 2001 Oct 7;268(1480):1977-83.

Reproductive investment in pre-industrial humans: the consequences of offspring number, gender and survival.

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Large Animal Research Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


The number and gender of offspring produced in a current reproductive event can affect a mother's future reproductive investment and success. I studied the subsequent reproductive outcome of pre-industrial (1752-1850) Finnish mothers producing twins versus singletons of differing gender. I predicted that giving birth to and raising twins instead of singletons, and males instead of females, would incur a greater reproductive effort and, hence, lead to larger future reproductive costs for mothers. I compared the mothers' likelihood of reproducing again in the future, their time to next reproduction and the gender and survival of their next offspring. I found that mothers who produced twins were more likely to stop breeding or breed unsuccessfully in the future as compared with women of a similar age and reproductive history who produced a same-gender singleton child. As predicted, the survival and gender of the offspring produced modified the costs of reproduction for the mothers. Giving birth to and raising males generally appeared to be the most expensive strategy, but this effect was only detected in mothers who produced twins and, thus, suffering from higher overall costs of reproduction.

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