Human post-menopausal longevity makes us unique among primates, but how did it evolve? One explanation, the Grandmother Hypothesis, proposes that as grasslands spread in ancient Africa displacing foods ancestral youngsters could effectively exploit, older females whose fertility was declining left more descendants by subsidizing grandchildren and allowing mothers to have new babies sooner. As more robust elders could help more descendants, selection favoured increased longevity while maintaining the ancestral end of female fertility. First, we develop a probabilistic agent-based model that incorporates two sexes and mating, fertility-longevity tradeoffs, and the possibility of grandmother help. Using this model, we show how the grandmother effect could have driven the evolution of human longevity. Simulations reveal two stable life-histories, one human-like and the other like our nearest cousins, the great apes. This and other related questions in social and evolutionary dynamics give rise to a variety of unique mathematical models and problems using ODEs, PDEs, and agent-based models. Thus, I will also introduce some of the projects being addressed by others in our research group.


Peter Kim

Research Area

University of Sydney


Fri, 03/11/2017 - 2:30pm to 3:30pm


Carslaw 275, University of Sydney