Left: Net calorie contribution from mothers (green) & fathers (purple) to all children. Right: Net contribution to daughters (green) & sons (purple) from all parents. (Credit: Paul Hooper)

How are humans able to spend such a long time maturing, and then live such long adult lives compared to other primates?

Current explanations suggest that intergenerational transfers — net sharing from one generation to another — are essential for the evolution of such “slow” life histories. 

In the current issue of the Royal Society’s Proceedings B, a study by Paul Hooper and collaborators details the intergenerational food sharing in a society of Amazon forager-farmers and shows that differences in relative need determine contributions to children from parents, grandparents, and other kin. 

"We've shown that the contributions provided by parents and grandparents to younger generations — far greater in humans than in any other primate — are essential for the human way of life," Hooper says. "These contributions explain how we are able to remain dependent longer, and live longer, than any of our primate cousins."

Hooper, now an assistant professor of biological anthropology at Emory University, carried out the research while he was an Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at SFI and a postdoctoral research at the University of New Mexico.

Read the paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (February 11, 2015)

Read the article on Emory University's eScienceCommons (February 11, 2015)