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


Jeremy Koster, Richard Mcelreath, Kim Hill, Douglas Yu, Glenn Shepard, Nathalie Van Vliet, Michael Gurven, Hillard Kaplan, Benjamin Trumble, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Douglas Bird, Brian Codding, Lauren Coad, Luis Pacheco-Cobos, Bruce Winterhalder, Karen Lupo, Dave Schmitt, Paul Sillitoe, Margaret Franzen, Michael Alvard, Vivek Venkataraman, Thomas Kraft, Kirk Endicott, Stephen Beckerman, Stuart A Marks, Thomas Headland, Margaretha Pangau-Adam, Anders Siren, Karen Kramer, Russell Greaves, Victoria Reyes-García, Maximilien Guèze, Romain Duda, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Sandrine Gallois, Lucentezza Napitupulu, Roy Ellen, John Ziker, Martin R Nielsen, Elspeth Ready, Christopher Healey, Cody Ross


Human adaptation depends upon 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 will benefit from increasingly accurate measurement of knowledge, skills, and rates of production with age. We pursue this goal by inferring individual hunters’ of hunting skill gain and loss from approximately 23,000 hunting records generated by more than 1,800 individuals at 40 locations. The model provides an improved picture of ages of peak productivity as well as variation within and among ages. The data reveal an average age of peak productivity between 30 and 35 years of age, though 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 upon heterogeneity in rates of decline than in rates of increase. This analysis sharpens questions about the co-evolution of human life history and cultural adaptation. It also demonstrates new statistical algorithms and models that expand the potential inferences drawn from detailed quantitative data collected in the field.

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Last Updated: 3/24/21