Tag Archive for ‘kin conflict’

Caring grannies or bitter mothers-in-law? The evolution of the menopause in humans.

We’ve all heard (and perhaps been annoyed by) the phrase ‘your biological clock is ticking’, but why do women go through the menopause at all, when men can keep fathering children into their 80s and 90s?
The menopause is an incredibly rare phenomenon in the animal kingdom, seen only in humans and a few species of whale. This rarity makes sense when you consider it from an evolutionary perspective. What would be the benefit to a woman of not being able to reproduce for her whole lifetime? She would most likely have fewer children, pass on fewer copies of her genes, and so any gene causing the menopause should be removed by natural selection. Then, why does it exist at all?

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