Computer model shows men to blame for menopause
June 14, 2013 2:07 PM Subscribe
Men to Blame for Menopause: Younger Women Preferred in Human Evolutionary History. Humans are actually the only species where females cannot reproduce throughout their lives, and previous studies have suggested that there may be a "grandmother effect." This suggests that women lose their fertility at an age where they may not live to care for another child. Instead, they're available to care for younger women's children.
Yet some scientists weren't satisfied with this theory. "How do you evolve infertility? It is contrary to the whole notion of natural selection" ...
posted by Golden Eternity (68 comments total)
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Original paper published in PLOS Computational Biology - Mate Choice and the Origin of Menopause
Human menopause is an unsolved evolutionary puzzle, and relationships among the factors that produced it remain understood poorly. Classic theory, involving a one-sex (female) model of human demography, suggests that genes imparting deleterious effects on post-reproductive survival will accumulate. Thus, a ‘death barrier’ should emerge beyond the maximum age for female reproduction. Under this scenario, few women would experience menopause (decreased fertility with continued survival) because few would survive much longer than they reproduced. However, no death barrier is observed in human populations. Subsequent theoretical research has shown that two-sex models, including male fertility at older ages, avoid the death barrier. Here we use a stochastic, two-sex computational model implemented by computer simulation to show how male mating preference for younger females could lead to the accumulation of mutations deleterious to female fertility and thus produce a menopausal period. Our model requires neither the initial assumption of a decline in older female fertility nor the effects of inclusive fitness through which older, non-reproducing women assist in the reproductive efforts of younger women. Our model helps to explain why such effects, observed in many societies, may be insufficient factors in elucidating the origin of menopause.
The origin and evolution of menopause is understood poorly and explanations remain contentious. Virtually ignored among explanations is the effect that mate choice can exert on an evolving population. We designed and used a computational model and computer simulation to show that male mating preference for younger females in humans could have led to the accumulation of mutations deleterious to female fertility and thereby produced menopause. Our model demonstrates for the first time that neither an assumption of pre-existing diminished fertility in older women nor a requirement of benefits derived from older, non-reproducing women assisting younger women in rearing children is necessary to explain the origin of menopause.