The evolution and function of menopause Essay
The evolution and function of menopause, 496 words essay example
Menopause is characterized by the time in a female's life when she no longer menstruates. This is meant to mark the period of fertility for women, whose childbearing years extend from the onset of their menstrual cycle to the completion of it at menopause. Over human existence, the evolution and function of menopause has changed. This complex topic is of interest because the ability to bear children and the function of doing so is the foundation of the entire human race. Changes in the function and process of menopause, from age of onset to its purpose, provide important markers for the human race itself will evolve in the future.
Menopause is believed to have begun early in the cycle of human evolution (Peccei, 1995). Theories about the purpose of menopause as humans evolved centered on natural selection. Women that became infertile earlier were able to live longer. Given the demands of raising children and the energy expended doing everything from carrying children, breastfeeding them and then caring for them, it became preferable even from a biological standpoint to nurture existing children rather than have new ones later in life (Peccei, 1995). Mothers that were not having children in life were stronger and more sustainable. This, again, is where natural selection played a role. Women that had babies later tended to be weaker and less sustainable. Thus, they were unable to survive as long as those mothers that had their children earlier and were finished later in life (Peccei, 1995).
Menopause affects humanity in that it allows for women to have children before they reach the latter stage of life. They are able to raise their children while they are still fairly young from a physical perspective. Their bodies then shut down this capability to avoid the physical setbacks for both mother and baby that come along with an older body carrying and delivering a baby. This is akin to nature's way of protecting women from taxing their body in a way they should not later in life.
Learning more about menopause now benefits humanity in the future because it shows that the pressures put on the body now can contribute to evolution later. Menopause in women evolved the way it did because of the pressures associated with caring for children. Imagine how it might evolve now considering the pressures women have now. If humanity and the continuation of it is dependent on the ability of women to have children, it is imperative to prevent natural selection from taking hold at a time when women are experiencing rising rates of physical health challenges.
The function of menopause hasn't changed over time, and the further evolution of it remains to be seen. What may change is the relationship between menopause and lifespan. As humans live for lengthier lifespans, menopause may evolve to happen later in life to accommodate for this change (Perls and Fretts, 2001). This is what helps to perpetuate the life-extending genes that have people living longer than ever before.