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Mechanisms of Life History EvolutionThe Genetics and Physiology of Life History Traits and Trade-Offs$
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Thomas Flatt and Andreas Heyland

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199568765

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199568765.001.0001

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Patterns and processes of human life history evolution

Patterns and processes of human life history evolution

(p.153) Chapter 12 Patterns and processes of human life history evolution
Mechanisms of Life History Evolution

Michael P. Muehlenbein

Mark V. Flinn

Oxford University Press

Phenotypic plasticity in reproductive physiologies and behaviours in response to stochastic environmental signals (i.e., diet, activity, stress, disease, availability of mates) represents a suite of complex adaptations produced by natural and sexual selection. As with other organisms, variations in human reproductive physiology and behaviour represent reaction norms constrained by trade-offs under conditions of resource restriction, which is to be expected given the central role of reproduction in life history evolution. Like other organisms described throughout this book, humans are required to allocate physiological resources between reproduction and a number of competing functions, particularly growth and survivorship. Furthermore, humans are capital breeding, iteroparous organisms that budget time and stored energy over a number of reproductive events within a lifetime. They have a suite of unusual life history traits combined with remarkable cognitive and social abilities. The interactive development of human life history traits may be understood by considering the context in which they could have evolved. This chapter, which reviews both theory and mechanisms of human life history evolution, emphasizes the key endocrinological mediators of life history trade-offs, particularly those involving reproduction. Specific topics include reproductive maturation, male and female reproductive ecologies, mating/parental behaviours, and reproductive senescence.

Keywords:   human evolution, paternal care, social competency, social competition, evolutionary endocrinology, reproductive ecology, menarche, adrenarche, menopause

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