Data from: Reproductive aging patterns in primates reveal that humans are distinct
Alberts, Susan C. et al. (2013), Data from: Reproductive aging patterns in primates reveal that humans are distinct, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m327n
Women rarely give birth after approximately 45 years of age, and they experience the cessation of reproductive cycles – menopause – at approximately 50 years of age, after a fertility decline lasting almost two decades. Such reproductive senescence in mid-lifespan is an evolutionary puzzle of enduring interest because it should be inherently disadvantageous. Further, comparative data on reproductive senescence from other primates, or indeed other mammals, remains relatively rare. Here we carried out the first detailed comparative study of reproductive senescence in seven species of nonhuman primates in natural populations, using long-term, individual-based data, and compared them to a population of humans experiencing natural fertility and mortality. In four of seven primate species we found that reproductive senescence occurred prior to death only in a small minority of individuals. In three primate species we found evidence of reproductive senescence that accelerated throughout adulthood; however, its initial rate was much lower than mortality, so that relatively few individuals experienced reproductive senescence before death. In contrast, the human population showed the predicted and well-known pattern in which reproductive senescence occurred prior to death for many women and its rate accelerated throughout adulthood. These results provide strong support for the hypothesis that reproductive senescence in mid-life, while apparent in natural-fertility, natural-mortality populations of humans, is generally absent in other primates living in such populations.