Natural selection on age-specific fertilities in human females: comparison of individual-level fitness measures.

Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society

PubMedID: 9921680

Käär P, Jokela J. Natural selection on age-specific fertilities in human females: comparison of individual-level fitness measures. Proc Biol Sci. 1998;265(1413):2415-20.
Lifetime reproductive success and timing of reproduction are key components of life-history evolution. To understand the evolution of reproductive schedules, it is important to use a measure of fitness that is sensitive both to reproductive quantity and reproductive timing. There is a contradiction between the theory, which mainly focuses on the rate measures of fitness (r and lambda), and empirical studies, which mainly use lifetime reproductive success (LRS), or some of its correlates, as a fitness measure. We measured phenotypic selection on age-specific fertilities in three pre-modern human populations using individually estimated finite rate of increase, er (lambda). We found that lambda and lifetime reproductive success ranked individuals differently according to their fitness: for example, a female giving birth to four children at a young age may actually have a higher fitness than a female giving birth to six children at a greater age. Increase in fertility at the young age classes (15-19 years) was favoured by selection, but the intensity of selection on fertility was higher in the older age classes (20-30 years), where the variance in fertility was highest. Hence, variation in fertility in the older age classes (20-30) was actually responsible for most of the observed variation in fitness among the individuals. Additionally, more than 90% of variation in fitness (lambda) was attributable to individual differences in LRS, whereas only about 5% of all variation in fitness was due to differences in the reproductive schedule. The rate-sensitive fitness measure did not significantly challenge the importance of total fertility as a component of fitness in humans. However, the rate-sensitive measure clearly allowed more accurate estimation of individual fitness, which may be important for answering some more specific questions.