Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

The life history of human foraging: Cross-cultural and individual variation

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Science Advances  24 Jun 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 26, eaax9070
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax9070


Human adaptation depends on the integration of slow life history, complex production skills, and extensive sociality. Refining and testing models of the evolution of human life history and cultural learning benefit from increasingly accurate measurement of knowledge, skills, and rates of production with age. We pursue this goal by inferring hunters’ increases and declines of skill from approximately 23,000 hunting records generated by more than 1800 individuals at 40 locations. The data reveal an average age of peak productivity between 30 and 35 years of age, although high skill is maintained throughout much of adulthood. In addition, there is substantial variation both among individuals and sites. Within study sites, variation among individuals depends more on heterogeneity in rates of decline than in rates of increase. This analysis sharpens questions about the coevolution of human life history and cultural adaptation.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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