Several evolutionary optimal models of human plasticity in age and nutritional status at reproductive maturation are proposed and their dynamics examined. These models differ from previously published models because fertility is not assumed to be a function of body size or nutritional status. Further, the models are based on explicitly human demographic patterns, that is, model human life-tables, model human fertility tables, and, a nutrient flow–based model of maternal nutritional status. Infant survival (instead of fertility as in previous models) is assumed to be a function of maternal nutritional status. Two basic models are examined. In the first the cost of reproduction is assumed to be a constant proportion of total nutrient flow. In the second the cost of reproduction is constant for each birth. The constant proportion model predicts a negative slope of age and nutritional status at maturation. The constant cost per birth model predicts a positive slope of age and nutritional status at maturation. Either model can account for the secular decline in menarche observed over the last several centuries in Europe. A search of the growth literature failed to find definitive empirical documentation of human phenotypic plasticity in age and nutritional status at maturation. Most research strategies confound genetics with phenotypic plasticity. The one study that reports secular trends suggests a marginally insignificant, but positive slope. This view tends to support the constant cost per birth model.
Gage, Timothy B.
"The Evolution of Human Phenotypic Plasticity: Age and
Nutritional Status at Maturity,"
4, Article 7.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol75/iss4/7