It’s a natural part of the female life cycle – so why don’t we talk more about the menopause, its debilitating effects and possible mitigation? Read the whole article here
The Guardian 26.8.2019  by Hannah Devlin

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In terms of evolution, what’s the point of the menopause?

One of the most compelling evolutionary explanations for menopause is the “reproductive conflict hypothesis”. The idea is that when multiple generations live together in a patrilocal set up (that’s to say, a woman moving in with her husband’s parents), a woman would compete with her mother-in-law for the resources needed for babies and children if their reproductive schedules overlapped.

Research by Prof Virpi Lummaa, of the University of Turku in Finland, using a 200-year dataset on pre-industrial Finns, showed that simultaneous reproduction by daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law was linked to a far worse chance of children surviving.

The daughter-in-law is unrelated to the children of her mother-in-law, so – evolutionarily – has no motivation to contribute to their survival. For the mother-in-law there’s a trade-off as she has 25% of genes in common with her grandchildren. And so if at some point in ancient history a “menopause gene” emerged, it would carry the evolutionary advantage of boosting the chances of survival of grandchildren.

“Our modelling work showed that such costs of two women reproducing simultaneously in the same household were sufficient to generate selection against continued reproduction beyond 51 years,” Lummaa says.

It’s interesting to note that this evolutionary trade-off only happens when males continue to live with their families as adults. Lummaa’s team studied Asian elephants employed in timber camps in Myanmar and found that calves survived better if their grandmother was nearby. However, Asian elephants do not show a clear-cut menopause and have been observed to reproduce into their late 60s.

A crucial difference could be that elephants live in matriarchal herds, led by a dominant older female. So, thanks, prehistoric patriarchy.

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Other News

Our review of the contribution of human studies to evolutionary biology is out now in Proceedings of the Royal Society B:
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/284/1866/20171164

Virpi was given the inaugural Phoenix Award from the Turku Finnish University Society on Friday in recognition of and encouragement for her consistently creative and internationally high-quality re

We had the pleasure of hosting Silke van Daalen from the University of Amsterdam for three weeks this September. Silke is a PhD student working with Hal Caswell on identifying individual stochasticity in life-history traits of long-lived populations with a mathematical modelling approach, and came to learn about our dataset and how she might be able to use it in her work. We wish her the best of luck with the rest of her PhD studies, and hope to see her again soon!

Another year, another project meeting! This time we stayed on the beautiful island of Seili, again with the lovely people from the Myanmar Timber Elephant Project, for a few days of talks, drinks, and sauna. Needless to say, there is plenty of interesting and exciting work underway - keep your eyes peeled for the results, coming soon (hopefully) to peer-reviewed journals near you!
 

John Loehr with his workgroup received EUR 225.000 grant from Kone Foundation in 2016 for their project Learning from the past: the effect of forced migration from Karelia on family life.
Karelia-project had their kick-off meeting at the University of Turku 19.4.2017. Intense discussions, good spirit and a lot of inspiration among the team!

Menikö luonnonvalinnalla jotain pieleen: Miksi nainen elää menopaussin jälkeen lähes saman mokoman vaikkei voi saada jälkeläisiä?

Virpi Lummaa

Our multidisciplinary research team is looking for a post-doctoral researcher for a three-year project investigating life history, social integration and the influence of kin in forced migrants in a 20th century Finnish population.

The project is an exciting opportunity to investigate the consequences of forced migration of over 400000 people during World War II from an evolutionary ecology and sociology viewpoint. These migrants encountered much the same traumas and faced similar prejudices and resentment that current migrants face today, making the study of this population particularly appropriate to gain insight into the present and future of current migrants.
 

John Loehr with his workgroup received EUR 225.000 grant from Kone Foundation in 2016 for their project Learning from the past: the effect of forced migration from Karelia on family life.

The plight of migrants has come to the forefront recently as masses of people have migrated to Europe seeking asylum from predicaments faced at home. Many people in Finland seem to have forgotten that over 400,000 Finnish people had to abandon their homes in Karelia as a result of World War II. In this cross-disciplinary project, directed by John Loehr, an ecological scientist, biologists, sociologists, historians and demographic researchers study how enforced migration has affected family relations, having children, and integration into the community.

Kimmo Pokkinen is a man behind the Finnish church book data which he has been collecting for years. He had a big day recently and there was a fair reason to serve some birthday cake for him at the university. Congratulations!

Carly, Verane, Simon, Kimmo, Virpi, Jenni, Samuli, Martin, Mirkka

The research group spent three intense days having a brilliant Project Meeting in Tampere, Finland in August 2016. The venue was the most beautiful place by the lake, surrounded by the pristine Finnish nature. A perfect venue for the best conference ever! Special thanks to our hosts Jenni and Esko.
Photos from the Project Meeting in Kesämaa, Finland, August 2016. Photos by Esko Pettay / Wild TechPhotos Oy.

Virpi Lummaa's Group: Project meeting in Finland, August 2016. Photo by Esko Pettay