8K Years Ago, Women Reproduced Way More Often Than Men

Scientists aren't sure why, but one theory involves successful farmers
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2015 12:30 PM CDT
8K Years Ago, Women Reproduced Way More Often Than Men
This undated image made available by the NIH's National Cancer Institute shows the 46 human chromosomes.   (AP Photo/NIH, National Cancer Institute, Hesed Padilla-Nash, Thomas Ried)

Scientists are puzzling over a new discovery regarding Stone Age sex: It seems that for every 17 women who reproduced at the time, just one man did the same. The findings are based on an analysis of the DNA of 450 people from geographically diverse locations. Researchers compared Y-chromosome DNA, which is inherited only from our male forebearers, with mitochondrial DNA, which comes from women, Pacific Standard reports. Such analysis can show experts our numbers of male and female ancestors, and the mystery here is why these ancient numbers are so out of whack. "It wasn't like there was a mass death of males," says Melissa Wilson Sayres of Arizona State University. "They were there, so what were they doing?"

Her team has suggested that perhaps a few males accumulated a great deal of wealth, pushing out others when it came to reproduction. As Danielle Paquette puts it at the Washington Post, "Survival of the fittest might have actually been survival of the richest." This would have occurred after the dawn of agriculture, suggesting that the top male reproducers were essentially the best farmers. Amanda Marcotte writes at Slate that the findings would seem to run counter to the thinking of evolutionary biologists who believe our nature was defined during the earlier hunter-gatherer period of cavemen. She's also glad that an age in which a few men got all the women is long gone. "That sounds terrible for both men and women." (Other recent evolutionary research examines why men like curvy women.)

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