Selection in utero contributes to the male longevity deficit
The literature offering evolutionary explanations of the male longevity deficit does not address temporal variation in the deficit. This circumstance appears attributable to the fact that natural selection intuitively explains the deficit's pervasive and persistent nature, while social processes more parsimoniously explain its temporal variability. I offer consilience of these perspectives by speculating that selection in utero, a mechanism both conserved by natural selection and affected by social processes, could induce deviations around trend in the male longevity deficit. I describe the mechanism and offer an empirical test of its possible effect among Swedes - a population with the longest continuous record of sex-specific longevity in annual birth cohorts. I replicate the test with data from England and Wales. Results support the hypothesis that selection in utero against less fit males may explain part of the difference in longevity between males and females in modern populations.
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Volume (Year): 72 (2011)
Issue (Month): 6 (March)
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