Iowa State Biologist Finds Among Primates Menopause Is Unique to Humans

bronikowskiA new study led by Anne M. Bronikowski, an associate professor of ecology at Iowa State University, has found that menopause is uniquely human among primates. The study found that female primates of other species remain fertile throughout their lifespan while women’s reproductive fertility typically ceases during their 40s or 50s. For example, female baboons typically live 25 years and continue to reproduce for their entire adult lives.

“We found that humans are doing something unique,” said Dr. Bronikowski. “It’s still an open question as to why that is. We know a lot about menopause on the physiological level, but we’re not sure how it come to be evolutionary.”

Some researchers suggest that medical advances have prolonged life far beyond what was the case only a few hundred years ago, far too little time for an evolutionary change to occur. Other have speculated that having a non-child bearing grandmother to help with child rearing has an evolutionary advantage.

Dr. Bronikowski is a graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Chicago.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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