Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why your grandma loves you

A good deal of my interest in science (in topics other than ecology, I mean) dates back to the time I was working on my doctoral dissertation. When staring at graph after graph became too much, or when I had just managed to hammer out another paragraph full of et al-s, howevers and therefores and really needed a break, my chosen method of chilling out was to browse science journals! I read up all the latest research on pesticide residues, acrylamide in foods, chimp behaviour, cooking oils, vitamin D, and sundry other topics in science. 
That was when I first read about, and was immediately intrigued by, the Grandmother Hypothesis. Since those early days, there has been a lot more written on that subject, including some pretty nice refinements that are stunning simple but exciting in how much they explain. The hypothesis - which includes explanations for why women undergo menopause and why grandmas dote on their grandchildren - had been on my mind a lot lately. When I found myself explaining it to a friend the other day, I decided it was high time I got it out of my system. This week's S and T section in Spectrum carries an article on the hypothesis:

What do women, whales and elephants have in common? Answer: The irreversible cessation of fertility that occurs well in advance of the end of the average adult life span.Or in plain English: menopause. In all the animal kingdom, only some kinds of whales, Asian elephants and women go through menopause. Naturally, scientists have long pondered over why this might be. And funnily enough, your grandmother might have a lot to do with this mystery.

You can read the rest of the article here.

No comments: