October 25, 2007


Promiscuous Males Evolved to Die Young | Globe and Mail

Savoy offers a modern take on an evolutionary discovery in this article in the Globe and Mail.

Montreal – Women-hoarding Lotharios that roamed the earth tens or even hundreds of thousands of years ago may be the reason today’s men have a shorter lifespan than women according to new research.

“People have known for a long time that men age faster and die earlier than women in Western societies,” said Professor Tim Clutton-Brock of the University of Cambridge. And the fact that our male ancestors may have bred with multiple mates, he said, could be the explanation.

Prof. Clutton-Brock and Dr. Kavita Isvaran of the Centre for Ecological Sciences studied the lifespan differences between males and females of 35 species of vertebrates.

Their study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, found that males of polygynous species – those in which harem-seeking males breed with several females – age faster and live shorter lives than their female counterparts.

In the study, 16 of 19 polygynous species proved to have males with a shorter lifespan than females.

Counted among the short-lived vertebrates in the study were such incorrigible skirt-chasers as red deer, lions, antelopes and sea lions.

However, in the monogamous species studied –including the beaver, the dwarf mongoose and the African wild dog – “males and females appear to have roughly the same lifespan and to age at the same rate,” Prof. Clutton-Brock said.

“If you’re dealing with polygynous species where one male monopolizes access to 10 females, then there are nine males waiting to take him over,” he added. “The pressure of that competition means that as soon as he starts to age, he’s taken out.”

Unless, of course, his name is Hugh Hefner. But while chasing sex may be exciting to some, it’s apparently bad news for your sex in general.

In fact, it could doom your gender for generations to come.

Prof. Clutton-Brock said his findings suggest human males were also polygymous at one time in their history. “The fact that there is a sex difference in aging among humans is a pointer to our polygymous past,” he said. “Or, if you like, our polygynous present as well.” But are present- day polygynous males also contributing to the lower male lifespan?

“I wouldn’t like to say that,” he cautioned. “What we’re seeing today is almost certainly the product of selection operating over the tens or even hundreds of years.”

Nick Savoy, the president of Love Systems, which runs seminars aimed at training men to attract women, acknowledged the draining effects of playing the field in modern times:

“I don’t know how many guys even want to get into the business of harem-management long term. . . . That does sound pretty time-consuming.”

And for men, time is the essence.

Excerpted and edited for clarity from The Globe & Mail
Craig Silverman
Special to The Globe and Mail
October 25, 2007

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