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The fitness of twin mothers: Evidence from rural Gambia

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Daryl Shanley


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We used a longitudinal database from a natural fertility population in rural Gambia to compare the overall fertility of mothers who had given birth to twins at some point in their reproductive history and mothers who had only ever given birth to singletons. We found that twin mothers had shorter birth intervals, higher age-specific fertility and more surviving children than singleton mothers. This suggests that, despite the considerably higher mortality of twins found in this population, twin mothers have a fitness advantage over singleton mothers, even in the absence of modern medical care. We ran a simple simulation model to estimate the relative fitness of twin and singleton mothers, and found that the model also estimated higher fitness for twin mothers. Further, girls who went on to become twin mothers were of higher anthropometric status during their teenage years than those who became singleton mothers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shanley D; Sear R; Mcgregor IA; Mace R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Evolutionary Biology

Year: 2001

Volume: 14

Issue: 3

Pages: 433-443

Print publication date: 20/05/2001

ISSN (print): 1010-061X

ISSN (electronic): 1420-9101

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2001.00287.x


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