Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 1, pp 135–143 | Cite as

Effects of remarriage after widowhood on long-term fitness in a monogamous historical human population

  • Jenni E PettayEmail author
  • Anna Rotkirch
  • Alexandre Courtiol
  • Markus Jokela
  • Virpi Lummaa
Original Paper


The fitness benefits of multiple mating determine the strength of sexual selection in each sex. This is traditionally quantified by the number of offspring born to once versus multiply mated individuals. In species with (bi)parental care, however, this measure may overestimate the benefits of multiple mating since having several mates can increase offspring number but decrease offspring quality. We analyzed short- and long-term fitness consequences of multiple marriages for both sexes in humans in preindustrial Finnish populations, where monogamy was socially enforced and remarriage was possible only after widowhood. Remarriage increased the lifetime number of offspring sired by men by lengthening their reproductive span but was unrelated to the lifetime number of births for women. However, neither men's nor women's long-term fitness, measured as their number of grandchildren, was significantly increased or decreased by remarriage. These associations were not modified by individual wealth. Our results suggest that despite increasing the number of offspring sired by men, the long-term fitness benefits of serial monogamy may be negligible for both sexes when parental investment is crucial for offspring success and continues to adulthood. They also demonstrate the importance of incorporating long-term fitness measures when quantifying the benefits of mating and reproductive strategies.


Human evolution Mating system Sexual selection Parental care 



We thank K. Pokkinen, A. Siitonen, L. Iso-Iivari, and V. P. Toropainen for data collection and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. This work was funded by the European Research Council, the Kone foundation (Helsinki, Finland), the Wissenschaftskolleg (Berlin, Germany), the Royal Society (UK), and the University of Helsinki Research Funds.

Supplementary material

265_2013_1630_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 32.4 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenni E Pettay
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna Rotkirch
    • 2
  • Alexandre Courtiol
    • 3
    • 4
  • Markus Jokela
    • 5
  • Virpi Lummaa
    • 3
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Section of EcologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Population Research InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Wissenschaftskolleg zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  6. 6.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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