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Human behavioral ecology (HBE) applies the principles of evolutionary theory and optimisation to the study of human behavioural and cultural diversity. Among other things, HBE attempts to explain variation in behaviour as adaptive solutions to the competing life-history demands of growth, development, reproduction, parental care, and mate acquisition. This book is a comprehensive introduction to the theoretical orientation and specific findings of HBE. It consolidates the insights of evolution and human behaviour into a single volume that reflects the current state and future of the field. It brings together leading scholars from across the evolutionary social sciences to provide a comprehensive and thought-provoking review of the state of the topic. Throughout, the authors explain the latest developments in theory and highlight critical debates in the literature, while also engaging readers with ethnographic insights and field-based studies that remain at the core of human behavioral ecology.
We argue that Benenson et al. need to consider not only sex differences in the effects of care on offspring survival but also in age-specific fertility when predicting how longevity affects fitness. We review evidence that staying alive has important effects on both women's and men's fitness, and encourage consideration of alternative explanations for observed sex differences in threat responses.
Where autonomy for partner choice is high, partner preferences may be shaped by both social and ecological conditions. In particular, women's access to resources can influence both the type and number of partnerships she engages in. However, most existing data linking resources and partner choice rely on either priming effects or large demographic databases, rather than preferences for specific individuals. Here we leverage a combination of demographic data, food insecurity scores and trait and partner preference ratings to determine whether resource security modulates partner preferences among Himba pastoralists. We find that while food insecurity alone has a weak effect on women's openness to new partners, the interaction of food insecurity and number of dependent children strongly predicts women's openness to potential partners. Further, we show that women who have more dependants have stronger preferences for wealthy and influential men. An alternative hypothesis derived from mating-market dynamics, that female desirability affects female preferences, had no effect. Our data show that women who face greater resource constraints are less discriminating in the number of partners they are open to, and have stronger preferences for resource-related traits. These findings highlight the importance of ecological signals in explaining the plasticity of mate preferences.
The rapidly decreasing costs of generating genetic data sequencing and the ease of new DNA collection technologies have opened up new opportunities for anthropologists to conduct field-based genetic studies. An exciting aspect of this work comes from linking genetic data with the kinds of individual-level traits evolutionary anthropologists often rely on, such as those collected in long-term demographic and ethnographic studies. However, combining these two types of data raises a host of ethical questions related to the collection, analysis and reporting of such data. Here we address this conundrum by examining one particular case, the collection and analysis of paternity data. We are particularly interested in the logistics and ethics involved in genetic paternity testing in the localized settings where anthropologists often work. We discuss the particular issues related to paternity testing in these settings, including consent and disclosure, consideration of local identity and beliefs and developing a process of continued community engagement. We then present a case study of our own research in Namibia, where we developed a multi-tiered strategy for consent and community engagement, built around a double-blind procedure for data collection, analysis and reporting.
Recent work in human behavioural ecology has suggested that analyses focusing on early childhood may underestimate the importance of paternal investment to child outcomes since such investment may not become crucial until adolescence or beyond. This may be especially important in societies with a heritable component to status, as later investment by fathers may be more strongly related to a child's adult status than early forms of parental investment that affect child survival and child health. In such circumstances, the death or absence of a father may have profoundly negative effects on the adult outcomes of his children that cannot be easily compensated for by the investment of mothers or other relatives. This proposition is tested using a multigenerational dataset from Bangalore, India, containing information on paternal mortality as well as several child outcomes dependent on parental investment during adolescence and young adulthood. The paper examines the effects of paternal death, and the timing of paternal death, on a child's education, adult income, age at marriage and the amount spent on his or her marriage, along with similar characteristics of spouses. Results indicate that a father's death has a negative impact on child outcomes, and that, in contrast to some findings in the literature on father absence, the effects of paternal death are strongest for children who lose their father in late childhood or adolescence.
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