From childhood to menopause: unraveling human life history evolution

Piret Avila

December 8, 2023, 12:45–13:45


Room Auditorium 4 (First floor - TSE Building)


Human life history is unique in the animal kingdom as it combines elements of both fast and slow life histories. Notably, humans possess several traits distinct within the primate order, such as an extended childhood and menopause. Evolutionary explanations for these distinct human traits typically fall into two main categories: the effects of kin selection and the physiological constraints that shape life-history trade-offs. Yet, forging a cohesive link between these theoretical perspectives has proven challenging. This complexity arises from the need to simultaneously consider kin selection, life-history trade-offs, and apply methods from optimal control theory and dynamic game theory in the context of genetically and physiologically structured populations. In my presentation, I will introduce a foundational model designed to concurrently address state-dependency and kin selection in human life-history evolution. A key focus will be the application of this model to investigate whether menopause could evolve predominantly through kin selection argument, or in other words, testing the so-called “grandmother hypothesis”. Furthermore, I will explain how this model can be applied to other life-history traits, such as the evolution of a prolonged childhood. This discussion will highlight how the general model can serve as a unifying framework, bridging the gap between diverse theories of human life-history evolution.


Piret Avila, From childhood to menopause: unraveling human life history evolution, IAST Lunch Seminar, Toulouse: IAST, December 8, 2023, 12:45–13:45, room Auditorium 4 (First floor - TSE Building).