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What Can Your Grandchildren Teach You About the Evolution of Menopause?

Humans—and two species of whales—are the only living organisms where the female ends her reproductive abilities long before her death. Though it is still unknown why this is, there are many theories that can explain a lot.

Don’t start complaining about vaginal dryness and night sweats until you’ve learned about why it is humans are a species that go through menopause.

The Theories

The first theory is called the Grandmother Hypothesis. This states that generally, direct reproduction ends in order to aid offspring with other valuable resources. An example includes raising your grandchildren.

The next theory, Embodied Capital Model (ECM), parallels the Grandmother Hypothesis with some key differences. Though it works off the same idea of allocating resources to better help children and grandchildren reproduce themselves, ECM relates more closely to cognitive resources versus physical abilities.

The Study

A study to further develop concrete answers to the question about menopause was conducted by Carla Aimé and her colleagues at a scientific institute in France. A stimulation was created in order to determine under what conditions females would stop procreating.

The findings concluded that menopause emerged when under two different situations: when humans had strong unchanging cognitive abilities, giving them another resource to pass on, and when they cared for grandchildren.

Going Deeper

This study suggests that menopause emerged because it was of greater benefit for the women to use their cognitive abilities to increase child fertility and grandchild survival over their physical abilities (direct reproduction). In other words, the cognitive abilities would increase overall gene transferal more effectively than allowing the women to reproduce over and over again until death.

It’s interesting to know the history of the female body and the importance of why women have to endure vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. If it’s for the good of our gene transferal and the continuation of humanity, then what is there to complain about?

 

Sources:
https://phys.org/news/2017-07-cognitive-abilities-grandkids-driven-evolution.html
http://www.newsweek.com/evolution-menopause-grandmother-computer-simulations-639724

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