The emergence of longevous populations

Fernando Colchero, Roland Rau, Owen R Jones, Julia A Barthold, Dalia A Conde, Adam Lenart, Laszlo Nemeth, Alexander Scheuerlein, Jonas Schoeley, Catalina Torres, Virginia Zarulli, Jeanne Altmann, Diane K Brockman, Anne M Bronikowski, Linda M Fedigan, Anne E Pusey, Tara S Stoinski, Karen B Strier, Annette Baudisch, Susan C AlbertsJames W Vaupel

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The human lifespan has traversed a long evolutionary and historical path, from short-lived primate ancestors to contemporary Japan, Sweden and other longevity frontrunners. Analyzing this trajectory is crucial for understanding biological and sociocultural processes that determine the span of life. Here we reveal a fundamental regularity. Two straight lines describe the joint rise of life expectancy and lifespan equality: one for primates and the second one over the full range of human experience from average lifespans as low as 2 y during mortality crises to more than 87 y for Japanese women today. Across the primate order and across human populations, the lives of females tend to be longer and less variable than the lives of males, suggesting deep evolutionary roots to the male disadvantage. Our findings cast fresh light on primate evolution and human history, opening directions for research on inequality, sociality, and aging.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNational Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
Issue number48
Pages (from-to)E7681-E7690
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Biodemography
  • Equality
  • Lifespan|pace and shape
  • Senescence


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  • Cozzarelli Prize

    Colchero, Fernando (Recipient), Rau, R. (Recipient), Jones, Owen R. (Recipient), Barthold, J. A. (Recipient), Ovando, Dalia Amor Conde (Recipient), Lenart, A. (Recipient), Nemeth, L. (Recipient), Scheuerlein, A. (Recipient), Schöley, J. (Recipient), Torres, C. (Recipient), Zarulli, Virginia (Recipient), Altmann, J. (Recipient), Brockman, D. K. (Recipient), Bronikowski, A. M. (Recipient), Fedigan, L. M. (Recipient), Pusey, A. E. (Recipient), Stoinski, T. S. (Recipient), Strier, K. B. (Recipient), Baudisch, Annette (Recipient), Alberts, S. C. (Recipient) & Vaupel, J. W. (Recipient), 2016

    Prize: Prizes, scholarships, distinctions

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