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Evol Hum Behav. 2009 Sep 1;30(5):305-314.

The Force of Selection on the Human Life Cycle.

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Department of Anthropology, Stanford, CA, USA.


In this paper, I present evidence for a robust and quite general force of selection on the human life cycle. The force of selection acts in remarkably invariant ways on human life histories, despite a great abundance of demographic diversity. Human life histories are highly structured, with mortality and fertility changing substantially through the life cycle. This structure necessitates the use of structured population models to understand human life history evolution. Using such structured models, I find that the vital rates to which fitness is most sensitive are pre-reproductive survival probabilities, particularly the survival of children ages 0-4. The fact that the preponderance of selection falls on transitions related to recruitment combined with the late age at first reproduction characteristic of the human life cycle, creates a fitness bottleneck out of recruitment. Because of this, antagonistic pleiotropy with any trait that detracts from the constituent transitions to recruitment is expected. I explore the predictors of variation in the force of selection on early survival. High fertility increases the selective premium placed on early survivorship, while high life expectancy at birth decreases it.

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