By MARK ELGAR
Research claiming that men are to blame for menopause has gone viral in the popular media in the past week. But does the theoretical model’s fundamental assumption – that men prefer young women – stack up?
It may surprise some to discover that, in many respects, humans are remarkably unremarkable. Our physiology and morphology is similar to other higher primates. In fact, it follows a broadly similar blueprint for primates and mammals more generally.
Nevertheless, we clearly lack the impressive size dimorphism of gorillas, the extraordinarily large testes of chimpanzees, and only a tiny fraction of our species share the fabulous hair colour of orangutans.
Humans also align unremarkably with conventional life-history theory, which attempts to understand how natural selection has shaped the principal events in an organism’s lifetime. Recent comparisons of mortality schedules in natural populations of primates, including humans, for instance, reveal similar patterns.
But we are unusual in at least one respect. In the vast majority of species, males and females die shortly after they cease producing and caring for dependent offspring. Several species of small marsupials of the genus Antechinus spectacularly illustrate this effect. Male and female Antechinus typically survive only one reproductive cycle.