Sunday Reads: After Three


It’s another Sunday, and I seem to be behind again.

Here are a couple of articles of note:



I will end it with this…

‘Grandmother Hypothesis’ May Help Explain Why Women Live Past Menopause : Goats and Soda : NPR

Killer whales, Japanese aphids and Homo sapiens  they’re among the few organisms whose females live on long past the age of reproduction.

Since the name of the evolutionary game is survival and reproduction, the phenomenon begs explanation — why live longer than you can reproduce? In the 1960s, researchers came up with the “grandmother hypothesis” to explain the human side of things. The hypothesis is that the help of grandmothers enables mothers to have more children. So women who had the genetic makeup for longer living would ultimately have more grandchildren carrying their longevity genes. (Sorry, grandfathers, you’re not included in this picture.)

This is an open thread.

17 Comments on “Sunday Reads: After Three”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Hey. I know. It’s been one of those weekends for me too and now, I’m working with students. (sigh)

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. quixote says:

    Re grandmothers. Duh. Pregnancy and birth and neonatal care are so complicated for humans that of course it increases survival to have someone experienced on hand to help.

    Only male academics could have possibly missed that staggeringly obvious point to begin with.

    But I think there’s also more to old age among humans, and it also explains why we bother keeping men around past their prime, when they’re not much use against lions and tigers.

    Picture a world without writing. No seriously. Picture it. You have zero way of knowing anything except what somebody can tell you. Old people can tell you a hell of a lot more than younger people. Old people were the libraries of pre-literate societies. That’s how important respect for learning and education is to humans: the groups that have the sense to benefit from it survive and pass on their genes for healthy old age that enabled them to survive.

    (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s thought of that, but I don’t remember where I’ve seen it before.)

    • NW Luna says:


      During birth, the fetus is in face backwards position relative to its mother as it is pushed through the vagina. (I prefer saying ‘pushed’ rather than moves’ to emphasize the essential work of the mother.) Primate mothers can squat, reach down and help their babies out as their heads crown because their babies face forwards, and the neck can safely flex forward. Because of human babies’ position, a human mother trying to help her baby out would be likely to injure her baby’s cervical cord as the baby’s neck would be extended backwards. A midwife’s help would be invaluable, especially if that midwife was older and so had been at many births.

      Oh, and more recent research (and research done earlier but ignored) indicates that gatherers bring in far more food, and far more regularly, than do hunters. Early humans were gatherer-hunters rather than hunter-gatherers.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      I love this, Quixote. One good thing about getting old is that if you’ve been paying attention at all, you know a hell of a lot!

      • quixote says:

        You really do! (I’ve actually on a few occasions had people stare at me and say, How come you know all that? Well, I say, you’re forty and you know 20 years’ worth more than when you were twenty, right? I leave them to work out what that means relative to them when they’re talking to a 60 year old 😆 )

    • bostonboomer says:

      The grandmother hypothesis has been around for a very long time. It’s not new. And stories (which were the basis of my research) are part of what makes us human. Language changed us. But even before that, old women would have been able to teach young people.