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Am J Hum Biol. 2002 Mar-Apr;14(2):184-205.

Antiquity of postreproductive life: are there modern impacts on hunter-gatherer postreproductive life spans?

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Department of Anthropology, and Graduate School of Education, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-1553, USA.


Female postreproductive life is a striking feature of human life history and there have been several recent attempts to account for its evolution. But archaeologists estimate that in the past, few individuals lived many postreproductive years. Is postreproductive life a phenotypic outcome of modern conditions, needing no evolutionary account? This article assesses effects of the modern world on hunter-gatherer adult mortality, with special reference to the Hadza. Evidence suggests that such effects are not sufficient to deny the existence of substantial life expectancy at the end of the childbearing career. Data from contemporary hunter-gatherers (Ache, !Kung, Hadza) match longevity extrapolated from regressions of lifespan on body and brain weight. Twenty or so vigorous years between the end of reproduction and the onset of significant senescence does require an explanation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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