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Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion

Page, AE; Viguier, S; Dyble, M; Smith, D; Chaudhary, N; Salali, GD; Thompson, J; ... Migliano, AB; + view all (2016) Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 113 (17) pp. 4694-4699. 10.1073/pnas.1524031113. Green open access

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Abstract

The Neolithic demographic transition remains a paradox, because it is associated with both higher rates of population growth and increased morbidity and mortality rates. Here we reconcile the conflicting evidence by proposing that the spread of agriculture involved a life history quality-quantity trade-off whereby mothers traded offspring survival for increased fertility, achieving greater reproductive success despite deteriorating health. We test this hypothesis by investigating fertility, mortality, health, and overall reproductive success in Agta hunter-gatherers whose camps exhibit variable levels of sedentarization, mobility, and involvement in agricultural activities. We conducted blood composition tests in 345 Agta and found that viral and helminthic infections as well as child mortality rates were significantly increased with sedentarization. Nonetheless, both age-controlled fertility and overall reproductive success were positively affected by sedentarization and participation in cultivation. Thus, we provide the first empirical evidence, to our knowledge, of an adaptive mechanism in foragers that reconciles the decline in health and child survival with the observed demographic expansion during the Neolithic.

Type: Article
Title: Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1524031113
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1524031113
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 National Academy of Sciences.
Keywords: Neolithic demographic transition, Neolithic revolution, epidemiological transition, hunter-gatherers, quality–quantity trade-off
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1482613
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