Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Evolution's Path May Lead To Shorter, Heavier Women 411

Posted by kdawson
from the short-but-neither-brutish-nor-nasty dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Yale University researchers believe that if evolutionary pressures of sexual selection and reproductive fitness continue for another 10 generations, the trends detected in their study may mean that the average woman in 2409 AD will be 2 cm shorter, 1 kg heavier, will bear her first child five months earlier, and enter menopause 10 months later. 'There is this idea that because medicine has been so good at reducing mortality rates, that means that natural selection is no longer operating in humans,' says Stephen Stearns of Yale University. 'That's just plain false.' Stearns and his team studied the medical histories of 14,000 residents of the Massachusetts town of Framingham, using medical data from a study going back to 1948 spanning three generations, and found that shorter, heavier women had more children than lighter, taller ones. Women with lower blood pressure and cholesterol were also more likely to have large families as were women who gave birth early or had a late menopause. More importantly, these traits are then passed on to their daughters, who also, on average, had more children. The study has not determined why these factors are linked to reproductive success, but it is likely that they indicate genetic, rather than environmental, effects. 'The evolution that's going on in the Framingham women is like average rates of evolution measured in other plants and animals,' says Stearns. 'These results place humans in the medium-to-slow end of the range of rates observed for other living things.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Evolution's Path May Lead To Shorter, Heavier Women

Comments Filter:
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:32AM (#29941201)

    Evolution's Path May Lead To Shorter, Heavier Women

    Well, shit. That sucks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i, for one, welcome our shorter, heavier overlords ;)

    • Preferences (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @09:19AM (#29941423) Homepage Journal

      It could just be that the Menfolk of Framingham fancy short fat women. Perhaps they're all short and fat as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BikeHelmet (1437881)

      I heard that stupid people also reproduce more, so clearly all the intelligent people will dry up by 2409 as well!

  • Evolution would just mean that whomever has the most children (that survive to also make children) becomes the dominant (in numbers) body type.

    • Re:Idocracy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @09:28AM (#29941463)

      Give that idiocracy shit a rest. It's not genetically dumber people who make more children, it's people lower on the social scale. As in, people in ghettos and immigrants. Poor education and poor nutrition (both which cause lower IQs) aren't genetically hereditary.

      So-called smart people always confuse uneducated people with less intelligent people. Maybe they're not that smart after all.

    • by bigpat (158134)

      Evolution would just mean that whomever has the most children (that survive to also make children) becomes the dominant (in numbers) body type.

      Yes, that is how evolution works.

      But run this same study in other places and maybe you get a different result. It could be that in Framingham the people that want to reproduce the most happen to be shorter. Or maybe there is something about being a bit shorter that opens up more mating possibilities. And the heavier part needs a bit more investigation, because people that have a lot of kids usually don't lose all the weight after the pregnancy.

      There is a very complicated cultural interplay that is part o

    • by noundi (1044080)

      Evolution would just mean that whomever has the most children (that survive to also make children) becomes the dominant (in numbers) body type.

      Not entirely, in you're assuming that nothing would change during this period, and that just because mother A got 5 children, so will daughter A, but of course it would as evolution itself is caused by change. It is true that evolution ultimately depends on offspring, but you can't neglect the path to having and raising that offspring. These are all events heavily based on environmental factors, and your second mistake is that evolution in our case depends on second set of genes -- our partners. You can't a

  • by acon1modm (1009947) * on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:33AM (#29941211)

    I think evolutionary change is being stifled by both medicine and civilization. Reproductive "success" is not genetic anymore, its based on social factors. The goal of most humans is no longer to spawn the most progeny.

    I come from a small backwoods town and women in these areas (e.g. low income, low education) have more children, and have them at a younger age. ( This is a generalization, no anecdotes please. And no I don't feel like looking up stats, maybe someone else can post some).

    Also, regardless of the details, I hope TFA is wrong. Have you seen dwarven females?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      But social factors have at least some roots in genetics (blah blah blah nature vs nurture, well guess what, it isn't 100% of either one).

      Also, reproductive rates over 2 or 3 generations may not be particularly meaningful over the long term (if those people are dying substantially faster or whatever).

      (read the summary carefully, 1 kg and 2 cm isn't much to worry about, there will still be plenty of taller and leaner women after those changes)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think the article argues that your 'impression' that evolutionary change is being stifled by both medicine and civilization is plain false. Also, it might be that the goal of most humans is to lead an fruitful and interesting lifes, but also that's irrelevant. Bottom line remains that whoever spawns most progeny will spread their genes. It is that simple.

      You might want to think things through a bit more, as your preliminary paragraph displays a very incorrect view of how selection operates. Whoever make

    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      You're showing a breathtaking middle-class, First World bias in that assumption about reproductive goals. There are still plenty of places where the odds of a single child surviving to adulthood are tragically poor, and where having a number of children to help with the family business is advantageous.
  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:34AM (#29941213)

    Evolution's Path May Lead To Shorter, Heavier Women

    Wow. I had no idea when I went to sleep last night that I would wake up against Evolution. Where's the ID/Creationism Kool-Aid? Comin' on board... make some room.

    • by PRMan (959735)

      Creationists believe in Natural Selection. They just don't believe that molecules turned into a man. They don't believe that anyone has proven a mutation that resulted in better DNA. Sometimes the result might be better (resistance to medicine or freezing), but the DNA is more corrupt overall.

    • I have a horrible, horrible idea for you:

      ID/Creationism will not ever change basic facts. You can only look away. The hammer will hit you anyway.

      So do you really want to look away, and lose your only chance to change something? ^^

      Ok, sorry... in case you are a stone with no own ability to change anything, then of course I did not want to offend you, and am an insensitive clod. :P

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:38AM (#29941235) Journal

    Heavier.

    And people say we americans are falling behind. We're just 500 years ahead and all the rest of ye are catching up. ;-)#

    • You are behind. We're just slowing down :) Can't run and eat pie at the same time.
    • Nope. Typical Framingham woman. Biiig difference!

      .
      .
      .
      That'll make $500 then. Thank you for using our Hurricane(78) (emotional) relief services!

  • Change the diet, and you'll see the "trend" reverse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Baron_Yam (643147)

      I doubt it. It probably reflects the fact that skinny women are less fit hosts for a fetus than heavier women. At some point, you run into high weight causing health issues that also make the woman a less fit incubator.

      Earlier maturity and later menopause extend the fertility period (duh)... in times past women needed more time to build up a healthy body to have children, and there was no genetic point in delaying menopause since pregnancies towards the end of female fertility were less likely to be viabl

      • If women are maturing earlier, then maybe the age of aduthood should be lowered from 18 to 17 (or 17 downto 16 in Denmark).

        Also I'm not convinced that thinner == less capable of carrying children. I would think the exact-opposite since the thin women I've known had "easy" pregnancies with quick labor, while the heavier women had more difficult, painful times.

        • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @09:26AM (#29941453)

          Any GP or OB/GYN will tell you that there is a minimum percentage of body fat below which a woman won't even menstruate.

          They'll also tell you a woman should gain some weight during pregnancy, and that generally speaking the outcome of the pregnancy is better if a certain amount of weight is gained (unless the woman is already overweight, of course).

          Again, I don't think they're saying thinner = bad, I think they're saying the population is shifting towards the optimum range. Skinny women have less, and less healthy children on average, so the average weight is rising by a small amount as they're outbred by heavier women.

          There will be an upper limit to this effect as well - morbid obesity is not a good thing for getting or being pregnant, either.

        • I would think the exact-opposite since the thin women I've known had "easy" pregnancies with quick labor, while the heavier women had more difficult, painful times.

          Since the "heavier" women we're talking about are averaging 1 kg heavier, and the "shorter" ones average 2.5 cm shorter, I'd think you'd have a hard time sorting out the "shorter, heavier" ones from the "taller, lighter" ones being talked about in this study.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by petes_PoV (912422)

        skinny women are less fit hosts for a fetus than heavier women

        Maybe they've got cause and effect the wrong way round. Maybe after the first baby, the women in this study put on weight. Women who didn't have children didn't gain weight so skewed the samples and results?

    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      Genetics understanding fail. Diet doesn't change your genes.

      Well actually... if everybody has a fattening diet, making people genetically predisposed to obesity more likely to become obese out of proportions, and that such obscenely obese people are more likely to die alone (without any offsprings) (wild assumption, I'm not sure that's true), then wouldn't that be an evolutionary pressure to get rid of people who get fat easily?

  • Here in Illinois, we just call them "corn fed". I had just assumed it was the climate.

  • makes one wonder... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by StripedCow (776465)

    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/07/27/1455253 [slashdot.org]

    is shorter and heavier "more beautiful"?

  • 36-24-36? (Score:5, Funny)

    by soupforare (542403) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @08:55AM (#29941319)
    ...only if she's 5'3"
  • I suspect that genetics and nutrition will mitigate these factors. Whilst the trend is towards fat, now, this is likely to plateau and fall.
  • Framingham is not America and America is not the world. While this report might hold true for a statistically insignificant group in one country, it tells us nothing about human evolution over the whole planet.

    The traits described probably have more to do with proximity to the local McDonalds, than anythiing about "survival of the fa^Hittest"

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @09:11AM (#29941385)

      Framingham is not America and America is not the world. While this report might hold true for a statistically insignificant group in one country, it tells us nothing about human evolution over the whole planet.

      The traits described probably have more to do with proximity to the local McDonalds, than anythiing about "survival of the fa^Hittest"

      Only blame the summary. Stearns made no such generalization.

  • by houghi (78078) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @09:12AM (#29941395)

    When I was young, an ongoing joke was the question 'Is fertility passed on by the parents." Now you could start asking that question. Also there is a trend of finding slimmer women more attractive. In the past this ment that those would be having more children.

    However with the pill and other contraceptives, it looks as if the most attractive (in a biological way) females have LESS babies.

    The result of this all will be that we have a lot of ugly kids. Perhaps the division becomes so great that we will separate as species and become two.

    • by samkass (174571)

      It depends on whether attraction to slimness (and big breasts, for that matter) have some other underlying benefit. For example, breasts tend to get bigger after a woman's first child, so perhaps men who favor flatter stomachs and bigger breasts are looking for women who are fertile yet not currently pregnant. While all sorts of societal factors would complicate that translating into reproductive success for such women, there would still be an underlying pressure that could push towards an equilibrium tha

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dachshund (300733)

      Also there is a trend of finding slimmer women more attractive. In the past this ment that those would be having more children. However with the pill and other contraceptives, it looks as if the most attractive (in a biological way) females have LESS babies.

      It's not quite as simple as that. As I've grown older (my 30s) I've discovered (the perhaps obvious fact) that "slimness" is largely a function of age. It amazes me how easy it is for my early-20s colleagues to stay skinny while drinking corn syrup a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TSRX (1129939)
      Ugly people = Morlocks?
    • by ucblockhead (63650) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @04:43PM (#29944584) Homepage Journal

      Except that is actually not at all the results they got. They studied weight, etc. *after* they had babies.

      They did not find that slimmer women end up having more babies. To do that, they'd have to take all of these measures *before* women had children and compare that to their future success. Because of the way they measured, what they *actually* found was that women who have more children end up fatter.

      That doesn't sell the papers, though.

  • Unconvincing. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @09:34AM (#29941491)

    I'm not convinced by these researchers' claims. Is there a trend towards people getting shorter? I thought the opposite was true. As for obesity, that's another story. But what I am convinced this reflects is not an evolutionary trend but rather a socioeconomic one. The better off people are the less likely they are to have children. So poorer people are the ones having children and unlike most of the rest of the world lower-class Americans are very likely to be obese. Do this study in parts of Asia or Africa and these researchers would be saying the trend was towards thinner humans. The US actually bucks the trend established by most developed nations in that many people still tend to have a few children, in Europe and Asia you're lucky if they have one. I'm not sure why there would be a shift towards bearing children sooner considering most people seem to be waiting longer to have kids. Again, it might simply be a reflection class.

    That seems like a big assumption to me given how many variables exist. An interesting thing a gynecologist told me a couple of years ago was that obese women tend do deprive the fetus of nutrients more so than your average women, so they tend to have underweight babies far more frequently. So this evolutionary tend doesn't seem like a particularly good thing to me. But then there are so many variables affecting humanity that these findings are likely meaningless.

  • Normally you'd expect the psychology of priming to catch this one: a linear extrapolation is worthless when medical technology continues to change as fast as it does. Diabetes continues to exist in 50 years? On the near side of the apocalypse? I highly doubt it. Excepting curvature, we can thus conclude that women are getting fatter.

    Some people see this phase we're in where the genomics/proteomics researchers are discovering that nothing is as simple as we told the investors as evidence that progress in

  • Here's another one for you. Genetically slutty women had more children than genetically prude women. Therefore, women are now genetically easier to get with than they used to be. Discuss.

  • It would be nice if evolution were driven by our ideals, but our ideals are not conducive to evolutionary drives and mechanisms which effectively boil down to "who gets laid more" and who don't.

    In the western U.S., I think the situation is only slightly more complex than described, but I can't disagree with its general assertions. However, some of this is somewhat regional. This should be expanded to include other nations. The short-fat thing in other nations and cultures don't work the same way as they

  • TFS makes the assumption, that because the people in Framingham are like that, that the whole world must be like that.

    Which of course, is total bullshit. This study is only meaningful for Framingham. If you want it to have a global meaning, do it globally.

    I don't understand how someone can create that assumption, and absolutely not notice its wrongness...

  • by Charles Dodgeson (248492) <jeffrey@goldmark.org> on Sunday November 01, 2009 @10:00AM (#29941665) Homepage Journal

    Didn't Thomas Hobbes argue that in the state of nature "the wife of man is solitary, nasty, brutish, and short." Or have I misquoted somehow?

  • In the Netherlands people marry rather late, and many women get their kids in their (late) thirties. A good portion of women of that age miss the boat. There is an enormous selection pressure going on. Ignoring the emerging trend of freezing eggs, one may expect that in a couple of generations Dutch women will be able to bear children at even older age, and may well live even longer than they do now.

    Bert

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:13AM (#29942129) Journal

    There are PLENTY of women here close to or over 2 meters. Do you know how hard it is to stare down at a woman's tits when they are above you? I got to carry a stepladder around JUST so I can I look down on women.

  • Troll (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:18AM (#29942171)

    Dear Sir/Madam,

          Evolution doesn't work that way. You're talking about genetic drift, which is not the same.

          Kthxbai

  • my wife (Score:5, Funny)

    by rastos1 (601318) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @11:37AM (#29942248) Homepage

    the average woman in 2409 AD will be 2 cm shorter, 1 kg heavier,

    Shit. My wife comes from future!

  • Tee hee... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @03:14PM (#29943774)

    Yo mama is so evolved...

  • My wife (Score:3, Funny)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Sunday November 01, 2009 @10:12PM (#29946838)

    My wife is 4'9" and we just had our first child. We are both engineers, and I'm none too tall myself.

    I think we might as well save them the trouble and name our next child Nali Mekkatorque and just get the Gnome race started.

New crypt. See /usr/news/crypt.

Working...