Wednesday 2nd March, 2011 at 5pm - Lecture Theatre SMB.0.14, Stewart Mason Building
Human Life History Evolution: Déjà Vu All Over Again
Professor Barry Bogin, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
In this lecture Professor Bogin combines evolutionary biology with the philosophy of the American baseball great Yogi Berra to explain the origins of the human species. Yogi provided the second half of the title for this lecture.
The distinct stages of life we call childhood and adolescence are unique to humans. So is the time after menopause for women, a time of vigorous and productive life without the costs of pregnancy. These new stages of life allow people to reproduce quickly and to keep alive more of their offspring than any other species of mammal.
Human evolution operated first to shorten the infancy stage of life by weaning infants early compared to other primates. This created the human childhood stage of life, but children require care from many people of the family and social group. Evolution then prolonged the growth period by adding an adolescent stage, which improves sexual appeal and the learning of adult jobs.
Finally, a long period of life beyond menopause became part of human biology, and grandmothers became part of human societies. Each of these new life stages has advantages, but each also comes with risks, especially in our modern world.