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Journal club: the origin of menopause

Menopause is, at face value, evolutionarily perplexing. Why select for the inability to breed, considering natural selection works only on the success of having offspring? Despite several claims, menopause is actually exceptionally rare - only humans and resident orcas (killer whales) have a systematic post-reproductive menopause state. It is rather hard to dissect the why in humans, but this study gives a good explanation of the demographic situation needed to evolve menopause. In short:

* Demographic situations where the offspring of mothers and daughters are in competition, plus where the offspring of daughters have an advantage (if the offspring of mothers have an advantage, breeding suppression in the young is observed)

* Social groups where the "grandmother" effect can aid the survival of the group (food sharing)

The implication is that these were key factors during human evolution, which would have molded our behaviour as well as our biology to maximise fitness.

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