Re: Multi-age Broods. Ignorance or Apathy?

Paul Crowley (
Tue, 06 Aug 96 17:30:28 GMT

In article <> "John Waters" writes:

> It is curious that this multi-age brood characteristic is not
> mentioned in any encyclopedia, or any reference work on primates.

No, it's not curious. It applies to only one primate and most
thinking about that one is inevitably distorted -- if not purblind.

I agree wholeheartedly with your identification of its importance.
The multi-age brood gave enormous advantages to the hominids that
first adopted it. If they found a new resource they could expand
at a fantastic rate (e.g. when they found a whole new continent
occupied by a techologically inferior people). This would have
given them such an enormous edge that they would have very rapidly
predominated. From then on, the rate of hominid evolution would
have escalated. A hominid population that was wiped out by disease,
famine or war would have been replaced in no time by its (superior?)

But when was it? I'd say this capacity undoubtedly dated from the
time the hominid mother put down the child. (Does this latter event
have a name?) This was a break with a 65+ Myr primate behaviour
pattern and requires a lot of justification. The multi-age brood
would explain its success -- so long as we get a reasonable account
of the new resources (or new niche) that this step made exploitable.

This "putting-down-of-the-child" is conventionally dated to some
vague time when there was a descent from the trees and an expansion
of the brain. My own, very strong, opinion is that such a radical
change would only have been adopted by a small population and for
very special reasons. In other words, it was a speciation event.
So I date it to the hominid split from the apes, and firmly believe
that it was a requirement for bipedalism itself.

Thanks for the insight.