The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

From the womb to the tomb: the role of transfers in shaping the evolved human life history


Anthropology, University of California-Santa Barbara

Friday 10:45-11:00, Galleria South Add to calendar

Humans are the longest living and slowest growing of all primates. Although most primates are social, humans are highly cooperative and pro-social in ways that likely co-evolved with the slow human life history. We highlight the role of resource transfers within and among generations in shaping low human mortality rates as a necessary precursor for selecting further reduced adult mortality rate in late adulthood. In conjunction with changes in the age-profile of production, the impacts of resource transfers and other forms of sociality on mortality may have played an important role in selection on post-reproductive lifespan during the course of human evolution. Using medical data and semi-structured interviews, I explore several types of common risks experienced amongst Tsimane forager-horticulturalists and quantify the types and targets of aid commonly given. Results illustrate the ubiquity of transfers in several key domains and suggest that the absence of transfers would greatly increase both pre-adult and adult human mortality rates.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation (BCS-0422690, BCS-0136274) and the National Institute on Aging (R01AG024119-01).

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