Natural and sexual selection in a monogamous historical human population

Whether and how human populations exposed to the agricultural revolution are still affected by Darwinian selection remains controversial among social scientists, biologists, and the general public. Although methods of studying selection in natural populations are well established, our understanding of selection in humans has been limited by the availability of suitable datasets. Here, we present a study comparing the maximum strengths of natural and sexual selection in humans that includes the effects of sex and wealth on different episodes of selection. Our dataset was compiled from church records of preindustrial Finnish populations characterized by socially imposed monogamy, and it contains a complete distribution of survival, mating, and reproductive success for 5,923 individuals born 1760–1849. Individual differences in early survival and fertility (natural selection) were responsible for most variation in fitness, even among wealthier individuals. Variance in mating success explained most of the higher variance in reproductive success in males compared with females, but mating success also influenced reproductive success in females, allowing for sexual selection to operate in both sexes. The detected opportunity for selection is in line with measurements for other species but higher than most previous reports for human samples. This disparity results from biological, demographic, economic, and social differences across populations as well as from failures by most previous studies to account for variation in fitness introduced by nonreproductive individuals. Our results emphasize that the demographic, cultural, and technological changes of the last 10,000 y did not preclude the potential for natural and sexual selection in our species.
Natural and sexual selection in a monogamous historical human population.

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