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Principles of Evolutionary Medicine$
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Peter Gluckman, Alan Beedle, Tatjana Buklijas, Felicia Low, and Mark Hanson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199663927

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199663927.001.0001

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The Human Life History

The Human Life History

(p.97) Chapter 5 The Human Life History
Principles of Evolutionary Medicine

Peter Gluckman

Alan Beedle

Tatjana Buklijas

Felicia Low

Mark Hanson

Oxford University Press

Life-history theory describes why species have particular patterns of growth, development, reproduction, and mortality, determined by an evolutionarily optimized allocation of resources to maximize reproductive success. This requires trade-offs, such as age versus size at maturity, number versus quality of offspring, current versus future reproduction, and fecundity versus lifespan. Humans are characterized by large brains and long lives, as well as by a singleton pregnancy, long post-natal nutritional dependency, a prolonged juvenile period, delayed sexual maturity, and modest sexual dimorphism. Females terminate reproduction before the end of their intrinsic lifespan. Humans produce few offspring, which benefit from high parental investment and a high rate of survival to adulthood. Disconnection between the age of biological puberty and acceptance as an adult can lead to problems of adolescence. Evolutionary considerations can explain the unusual characteristics of human life history, including the long childhood phase, the pubertal growth spurt, and menopause.

Keywords:   Life history, Growth, Development, Reproduction, Lifespan, Parental investment, Childhood, Puberty, Adolescence, Menopause

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