Polygamy the Key to Long Life!

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ewen Callaway

polygamyWant to live a little longer? Get a second wife. New research suggests that men from polygamous cultures outlive those from monogamous ones.

After accounting for socioeconomic differences, men aged over 60 from 140 countries that practice polygamy to varying degrees lived on average 12% longer than men from 49 mostly monogamous nations, says Virpi Lummaa, an ecologist at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Lummaa presented her findings last week at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology’s annual meeting in Ithaca, New York.

Rather than a call to polygamy, the research might solve a long-standing puzzle in human biology: Why do men live so long?

This question only makes sense after asking the same for women, who – unlike nearly all other animals – live long past the menopause.

Enforced monogamy

One answer seems to be a phenomenon called the grandmother effect. For every 10 years a woman survives past the menopause, she gains two additional grandchildren, Lummaa says. It seems that doting on and spoiling grandchildren aids their survival, as well as furthering some of their grandmother’s genes.

Men, by contrast, can reproduce well into their 60s and even 70s and 80s, and most researchers assumed this explained their longevity. But Lummaa and colleague Andy Russell wondered whether other factors explained the long lifespan of men, such as a grandfather effect.

To test this possibility, the team analysed church-gathered records for 25,000 Finns from the 18th and 19th centuries. People tended to move little, no one practiced contraception and the Lutheran Church enforced monogamy.

Only widowed men could remarry, and if they had children with their new wife, they fathered more kids, on average, than men who married once.

But ultimately remarried men “don’t end up with any more grandchildren,” Lummaa says. “If anything the presence of a grandfather was associated with decreased survival of grandchildren.”

Perhaps, Lummaa adds, the children of the first mother lose out on food and resources that go to the second mother’s kids. “It’s kind of the Cinderella effect.”

Even fathers with only one wife provided no benefit to their grandchildren, a finding supported by previous research.

Biological selection

With the grandfather effect ruled out, Lummaa and Russell next wondered whether the constraints of human physiology explain male longevity. In the same way that men have nipples that evolved for women to nourish their young, male longevity might be a consequence of biological selection for long-lived women.

To answer this question, the researchers compared the lifespan of men from polygamous countries with those from monogamous nations.

Using data from the World Health Organization, Lummaa and Russell scored 189 countries on a monogamy scale of one to four – totally monogamous to mostly polygamous. They also took into account a country’s gross domestic product and average income to minimise the effect of better nutrition and healthcare in monogamous Western nations.

Lummaa stressed that their monogamy score is a crude first stab, and they are working to find multiple ways to assess marriage patterns. The conclusions could evaporate under further analysis, she adds.

If female survival is the main explanation for male longevity, then monogamous and polygamous men would live for about the same length of time. Instead, it seems that fathering more kids with more wives leads to increased male longevity. Men, then, live long because they’re fertile well into their grey years.

The explanation could be both social and genetic. Men who continue fathering kids into their 60s and 70s could take better care for their bodies because they have mouths to feed. But evolutionary forces acting over thousands of years could also select for longer-lived men in polygamous cultures.

“It’s a valid hypothesis and good prediction,” says Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who attended the talk. But the care and attention of several wives who depend on the social status of their ageing husband could explain everything. “It doesn’t surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies, where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them.”

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Begin’s Grandson: ‘Murderous Blood Flows in Israeli Arteries’

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Maysaa Jarour, Palestine Telegraph

Palestine, February 13, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – “Murderous blood flows in Israeli arteries,” says the grandson of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Avindav Begin, who is also the son of the current Likud Knesset member Benny Begin, refuses to stand during the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” and participates in protests against the Apartheid Wall. He does not see himself as a Jew or a Zionist and believes that his grandfather did not make real peace with Egypt. He also is not worried about being the target of rotten eggs after his inflammatory interview with Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot.

The newspaper said in a lengthy report: “(Avindav) Begin examines the psychological roots of the Jewish-Arab conflict in his new book ‘End the Conflict,’ which was published recently in both Hebrew and Arabic. He suggests a radical solution to spare all religious, national and ideological sectors, encouraging everyone to live together as human beings. Despite being brought up in a very nationalistic family, and perhaps for this reason, he did not agree with the theories of his father and grandfather.

The newspaper asked him:

Do you raise Israel’s flag on its independence day?

I do not raise any flag, either the flag of Israel or the flag of Palestine.

Do you stand when they sing “Hatikva”?

No, because it makes no sense in my view.

Why do you live in Israel, then?

My family, sisters and brothers and friends are here.

How do you feel about the 700 people who were killed in the 1982 war that was initiated by Israel and led by your grandfather?

There were actually 30,000 Lebanese and Palestinians killed, mostly unarmed people who cannot be compared with Israeli soldiers because the people did not fight at all. I think that there is no need for any war, including the War of Nov. 6, 1973.

Do you think that the conflict will continue?

I protest in Bil’in (in the West Bank) because I reside here, not in Kosovo, it is one hour from my house. I want to remove the wall and bring Arnit back to farm his field. (After reading an advertisement on the Internet, Begin joined a protest four years ago near the Apartheid Wall in Bil’in and established a close relationship with Wajeyh Arnit, a father of 10 children and a contractor who worked in Israel. His son Rani was paralyzed by a bullet fired by Israeli troops.)

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Obama to Investment Guru Buffett: Hi Cuz

December 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, who won political support and has sought advice from investment guru Warren Buffett, may now feel even closer to the world’s second richest man.

According to their family trees, the two men who at times shared the stage together during the 2008 presidential campaign are seventh cousins three times removed.

Genealogists at ancestry.com announced Tuesday that Obama and Buffett are related through a 17th century Frenchman named Mareen Duvall.

According to the online genealogists, Duvall — who immigrated to Maryland from France in the 1650s — is Obama’s 9th great grandfather and Buffett’s 6th great grandfather.

The discovery was made by accident when the same team of genealogists who had researched Obama’s family tree went on to investigate details about Buffett’s relatives.

“We recognized the name Duvall and it made us wonder if this was a connection,” said Anastasia Tyler, the lead researcher on the project. “So we started focusing on Duvall.”

“We’re always looking for a way to show how interesting family history is. Like this, when you start finding similarities in family trees,” Tyler said in an interview. “The tree leads you in directions you don’t expect.”

The family tree shows Obama related to Duvall through his mother Stanley Ann Dunham while Buffett is linked to Duvall through his father Howard Buffett.

Tyler called Duvall’s life a “rags-to-riches” story. He arrived in America as an indentured servant but by 1659 he had bought property in Maryland and became a planter and merchant and was considered a “country gentleman.”

“It’s quite an achievement,” Tyler said of Duvall’s rise in society. “You can see similarities to him in both (Obama’s and Buffett’s) lives.”

During the presidential campaign, Lynne Cheney said she found while tracing her family roots that her husband, then Vice President Dick Cheney, was a distant cousin of Obama’s.

Obama has also been found to have had German roots through his sixth great grandfather, and a connection to Ireland through his third great grandfather.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)