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


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 


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Copyright information

© Walter de Gruyter, Inc 1998

Authors and Affiliations

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

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