Patient Parenting: Sharing of Food Across Generations Contributes to Humans' Long Life Histories

How are humans able to spend such a long time maturing, and then live such long adult lives compared to other primates?


  • newswise-fullscreen Patient Parenting: Sharing of Food Across Generations Contributes to Humans' Long Life Histories

    Credit: Paul Hooper

    Net calories-per-day contribution to daughters (green) & sons (purple) from all parents. Lactation excluded.

  • newswise-fullscreen Patient Parenting: Sharing of Food Across Generations Contributes to Humans' Long Life Histories

    Credit: Paul Hooper

    Net calories-per-day contribution from mothers (green) & fathers (purple) to all children. Lactation excluded.

Newswise — How are humans able to spend such a long time maturing, and then live such long adult lives compared to other primates?

Current explanations suggest that intergenerational transfers — net sharing from one generation to another — are essential for the evolution of such “slow” life histories.

In the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a new study led by Paul Hooper details the intergenerational food sharing in a society of Amazon forager-farmers and shows that differences in relative need determine contributions to children from parents, grandparents, and other kin.

"We've shown that the contributions provided by parents and grandparents to younger generations — far greater in humans than in any other primate — are essential for the human way of life," Hooper says. "These contributions explain how we are able to remain dependent longer, and live longer, than any of our primate cousins."

Hooper carried out the research while he was an Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.

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