Human Nature

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 263–271 | Cite as

The nubility hypothesis

The human breast as an honest signal of residual reproductive value
  • Frank Marlowe
Article

Abstract

A new hypothesis is proposed to explain the perennially enlarged breasts of human females. The nubility hypothesis proposes that hominid females evolved protruding breasts because the size and shape of breasts function as an honest signal of residual reproductive value. Hominid females with greater residual reproductive value were preferred by males once reliable cues to ovulation were lost and long-term bonding evolved. This adaptation was favored because female-female competition for investing males increased once hominid males began to provide valuable resources.

Key words

Female-female competition Male care Perennially enlarged breasts Residual reproductive value 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Anderson, J. L. 1988 Breasts, Hips, and Buttocks Revisited. Ethology and Sociobiology 9:319–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boyle, P. 1988 Epidemiology of Breast Cancer. In Bailliere’s Clinical Oncology, U. Veronesi, ed. Pp. 1–57. Eastborne: Bailliere Tindall.Google Scholar
  3. Buss, D. 1994 The Evolution of Desire. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Cant, J. 1981 Hypotheses for the Evolution of Human Breasts and Buttocks. American Naturalist 117:199–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caro, T. M., and D. W. Sellen 1990 The Reproductive Advantages of Fat in Women. Ethology and Sociobiology 11:51–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cohen, M. N. 1980 Speculations on the Evolution of Density Measurement and Population in Homo Sapiens. In Biosocial Mechanisms of Population Regulation, M. N. Cohen, R. S. Malpass, and H. G. Klein, eds. Pp. 275–304. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Daly, M., and M. Wilson 1983 Sex, Evolution and Behavior. Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  8. Dawkins, R., and J. R. Krebs 1978 Animal Signals: Information or Manipulation? In Behavioral Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach, J. R. Krebs and N. B. Davies, eds. Pp. 282–309. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific.Google Scholar
  9. Fisher, R. A. 1958 The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  10. Ford, C. S., and F. A. Beach 1951 Patterns of Sexual Behavior. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  11. Frisch, R. 1978 Population, Food Intake, and Fertility. Science 199:22–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gallup, G. G. 1982 Permanent Breast Enlargement in Human Females: A Sociobiological Analysis. Journal of Human Evolution 11:597–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Goodall, J. 1986 The Chimpanzees of Gombe. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University.Google Scholar
  14. Huss-Ashmore, R. 1980 Fat and Fertility: Demographic Implications of Differential Fat Storage. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 23:65–91.Google Scholar
  15. Hytten, F. E., and I. Leitch 1971 The Physiology of Human Pregnancy, second ed. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Kaplan, H. 1997 The Evolution of the Human Life Course. In Between Zeus and Salmon: The Biodemography of Longevity, K. Watcher and C. Finch, eds. Pp. 175–211. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  17. Kendrick, D. T., and R. C. Keefe 1992 Age Preferences in Mates Reflect Differences in Human Reproductive Strategies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 15:75–133.Google Scholar
  18. Krebs, J. R., and R. Dawkins 1984 Animal Signals: Mind Reading and Manipulation. In Behavioral Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach, second ed., J. R. Krebs and N. B. Davies, eds. Pp. 380–402. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  19. Lancaster, J. B. 1986 Human Adolescence and Reproduction: An Evolutionary Perspective. In School-Age Pregnancy and Parenthood: Biosocial Dimensions, J. B. Lancaster and B. A. Hamburg, eds. Pp. 17–37. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  20. Low, B. S., R. D. Alexander, and K. M. Noonan 1987 Human Hips, Breasts and Buttocks: Is Fat Deceptive? Ethology and Sociobiology 4:249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 1988 Response to Judith Anderson’s Comments on Low, Alexander, and Noonan. Ethology and Sociobiology 9:325–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 1990 Fat and Deception: Response to Caro and Sellen’s Comments on Low, Alexander, and Noonan. Ethology and Sociobiology 11:67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Manning, J. T., D. Scutt, G. H. Whitehouse, and S. J. Leinster 1997 Breast Asymmetry and Phenotypic Quality in Women. Evolution and Human Behavior 18:223–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mascia-Lees, F. E., J. H. Relethford, and T. Sorger 1986 Evolutionary Perspectives on Permanent Breast Enlargement in Human Females. American Anthropologist 88:423–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Masters, W. H., V. E. Johnson, and R. C. Kolodny 1988 Human Sexuality, third ed. Glenview: Scott, Foresman.Google Scholar
  26. McCary, J. L. 1973 Human Sexuality, second ed. New York: D. Van Nostrand.Google Scholar
  27. Møller, A. P., M. Soler, and R. Thornhill 1995 Breast Asymmetry, Sexual Selection, and Human Reproductive Success. Ethology and Sociobiology 16:207–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Niefert, M. R., J. M. Seacat, and W. E. Jobe 1985 Lactation Failure Due to Insufficient Glandular Development of the Breast. Pediatrics 76:823–828.Google Scholar
  29. Rebuffe-Scrive, M., E. Lennart, N. Crona, P. Lonnroth, L. Abrahamsson, U. Smith, and P. Bjorntorp 1985 Fat Cell Metabolism in Different Regions in Women. Journal of Clinical Investigation 75:1973–1976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Short, R. V. 1976 The Evolution of Human Reproduction. Proceedings of the Royal Society B195:3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Singh, D. 1995 Female Health, Attractiveness, and Desirability for Relationships: Role of Breast Asymmetry and Waist-To-Hip Ratio. Ethology and Sociobiology 16:465–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Smith, N. W. 1986 Psychology and Evolution of Breasts. Human Evolution 1:285–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Smith, R. L. 1984 Human Sperm Competition. In Sperm Competition and the Evolution of Animal Mating Systems, R. L. Smith, ed. Pp. 601–659. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  34. The Diagram Group 1983 Woman’s Body: An Owner’s Manual. New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
  35. Whiting, J. W., V. K. Burbank, and M. S. Ratner 1986 The Duration of Maidenhood across Cultures. In School-Age Pregnancy and Parenthood: Biosocial Dimensions, J. B. Lancaster and B. A. Hamburg, eds. Pp. 273–302. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Marlowe
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta Barbara

Personalised recommendations