Re: Social evolution of hominids

Phillip Bigelow (
Wed, 08 Jan 1997 21:09:11 -0800

Susan S. Chin wrote:
> The benefit of continuous sexual
> receptivity in human females, according to Owen Lovejoy, is to ensure
> that the male stays with the female, even during periods when she's not
> fertile (ovulating).

As with many behavioral theories for hominids that have been put
forth, I always ask this question: Is the hypothesis testable?
The easiest way to test this is to look for extant analogs.
Are there any? Some rodents have a prodigious fertility rate....

Further, the hidden (and frequent) fertility in modern
human females really doesn't help to bolster the theory for earlier
hominid females. Since modern human behavior is nowhere near being
anything close to "monogamous", then how should this modern dataset
be extrapolated over to fossil hominids?

I don't mean to over-do my picking on Owen Lovejoy's hypothesis, but
I have to admit that I am somewhat stumped as to how one would go
about testing his idea.

The only "hard-data" possibility that comes to my mind
is to test adult female morphotype hominid fossils for bone
density, and compare this with adult female apes. If the
adult female hominid bone density (and associated osteoporosis,
if any) matches modern human female data, then there may be
a meaningful correlation on female fertility/steriod
fluctuations. At least we could find and date some early occurrences
of monthly fertility cycles in fossil hominids.
But it still doesn't address Lovejoy's hypothesis. Is it testable?