Unlike the females of most species, women often live for decades after their childbearing years. A new study suggests that there's an evolutionary reason for granny's staying power.
Grandmothers have traditionally helped care for their grandchildren, especially once the youngsters have been weaned. As a result, according to a team led by Mirkka Lahdenperä of the University of Turku in Finland, the daily presence of a grandmother enhances the reproductive success of her own children and the survival of her grandchildren.
The researchers analyzed birth and death records in two farming communities, one in Finland and the other in Canada, from the 18th and 19th centuries. Of particular interest were 537 Finnish women and 3,290 Canadian women who lived past age 50 after bearing at least one child in a marriage. All were grandmothers.
On average, these women gained two extra grandchildren for every decade that they survived past age 50, the scientists report in the