Grandmothers and the evolution of human longevity: a review of findings and future directions.
Women and female great apes both continue giving birth into their forties, but not beyond. However humans live much longer than other apes do. Even in hunting and gathering societies, where the mortality rate is high, adult life spans average twice those of chimpanzees, which become decrepit during their fertile years and rarely survive them. Since women usually remain healthy through and beyond childbearing age, human communities include substantial proportions of economically productive postmenopausal women. A grandmother hypothesis(8-12) may explain why greater longevity evolved in our lineage while female fertility still ends at ancestral ages. This hypothesis has implications for the evolution of a wide array of human features. Here we review some history of the hypothesis, recent findings, and questions for ongoing research.
Copyright (c) 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.Evol Anthropol. 2013 Nov-Dec;22(6):294-302. doi: 10.1002/evan.21382.