Costs and Consequences of Reproduction

Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)


The life history of women is characterized by several unusual patterns: women have a relatively late age at maturity compared to other primates, they produce offspring at short inter-birth intervals, and typically have many dependent offspring of varying ages to care for simultaneously. Women then lose their potential to bear children at menopause but can live a few decades afterwards. Such a reproductive strategy involves several trade-offs and costs of reproduction to future success that have to be optimized across the entire lifespan. This chapter summarizes evidence from humans on the costs of reproduction. First, I discuss the short-and long-term effects of investment in reproduction on the survival patterns of individuals. Second, I address how current reproductive investment affects the ability to invest in future reproductive events. Third, I review the evidence for such costs of reproduction and trade-offs changing with the age of the individual and across different environments. Trade-offs are predicted to be most severe among the very young and senescing females, and when resources are limited. Finally, I investigate the heritable genetic basis for individual differences in the consequences of reproduction, and how heritabilities and genetic trade-offs between traits vary with age and across environmental conditions.


Reproductive Effort Reproductive Investment Offspring Birth Weight High Reproductive Effort Rapid Evolutionary Response 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Thanks to Palestina Guevara-Fiore for temporarily removing my personal costs of reproduction; Duncan Gillespie, Samuli Helle, Mirkka Lahdenperä, Jianghua Liu, Jenni Pettay, Ian Rickard, and Matthew Robinson for help with the literature; and the Royal Society of London for funding.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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