Evol Ecol Res 5: 1199-1221 (2003)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

The impact of environmental factors on human life-history evolution: an optimization modelling and data analysis study

A.T. Teriokhin,1,2* F. Thomas,1 E.V. Budilova1,2 and J.F. Guégan1

1Centre d’Etudes sur le Polymorphisme des Micro-Organismes, UMR 9926 IRD-CNRS, 911 Avenue Agropolis, BP 6451, 34394 Montpellier Cedex 5, France and  2Department of Biology, Section of General Ecology, Moscow Lomonosov State University, Moscow 119992, Russia

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: ter@mat.bio.msu.su


A model of human life-history evolution based on the optimization of resource partition by an individual between its growth, reproduction and survival is used for searching evolutionarily optimal state-dependent strategies of energy allocation under different combinations of the model parameters representing food availability and environmental stresses. Using these strategies, we compute the corresponding optimal life histories and determine the dependency of their characteristics on both environmental parameters. Then, using a statistical analysis of global social and demographic data for 131 countries, we examine relationships between human life-history traits and environmental characteristics. Finally, we compare the dependencies obtained by modelling with those derived from data analysis. We show that such observed phenomena as a decrease in fertility with an increase of wealth (known as demographic transition), an increase in birth weight, age at maturity, size at maturity and life expectancy with a decrease of infection and an increase in food availability can be viewed as consequences of evolutionary optimization of the human life-history strategy of resource allocation.

Keywords: age at marriage, age at maturity, availability of food, birth weight, demographic transition, dynamic programming, fertility, human life-history evolution, infection stresses, life expectancy, optimal energy allocation, size at maturity

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