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American Anthropologist

Direct Male Care and Hominin Evolution: Why Male–Child Interaction Is More Than a Nice Social Idea



ABSTRACT  Early members of the genus Homo experienced heightened absolute metabolic costs, partially owing to increases in body size. However, as is characteristic of modern humans, they also likely began reproducing with shortened interbirth intervals. Male investment in offspring may help explain how this life history shift occurred. Evolutionary models of hominin male investment in offspring have traditionally focused on provisioning of females and young, yet the extent to which direct male care of offspring was evolutionarily important, from an energetic perspective, is largely unaddressed. I propose an evolutionary model of direct male care, demonstrating that males could have helped reduce the energetic burden of caregiving placed on mothers by carrying young. In doing so, males would have assisted females in achieving and maintaining an energetic condition sufficient for reproduction, thereby hastening the advent of shortened interbirth intervals that played a formative role in the success of our genus.

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